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I’m only making business card sized games now (frankforce.com)
264 points by Delgan on Apr 1, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 173 comments



> We all know that modern games have become bloated, weighed down by useless features, achievements, anti piracy measures, piles of assets, and other junk. Not only that but developers are constantly taken advantage of, made to crunch for no pay, mass layoffs, etc. Lives have been ruined, and for what? So you could watch your horse poop or play dominoes in an open world game?

I am not sure that it's fair to compare a business card game to AAA games. The depth and complexity just isn't there. It's a randomly generated ski slope that you press left or right to navigate. Fun for a few minutes? Sure. But fun for multiple sessions? Not really.

I've played something like 1500 hours of Overwatch that I bought for $30. The depth of the game is just spectacular, and it keeps you coming back to play more. They add new heroes and new maps regularly. The core game itself is fun. I've made many friends. I met my girlfriend in that game.

The polish and complexity is just not comparable to a business card game. Yeah, they had to pay developers to make matchmaking servers and automatic update processes and add new heroes and code "events" and make a storefront to buy lootboxes. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Blizzard made money. The engineers on the project made money. I enjoyed my time playing the game. It's just a totally different universe from a 30-second throwaway game.

The lesson to take away, is that anything can be simple. The question is: is the simplest possible thing even worth it? Games like Overwatch changes people's lives and become apart of them. Random skiing... good blog post I guess, but where is the impact? What would the world be like without this game?


I don't think OP is actually suggesting that everyone should play business card skiing games instead of Overwatch. This argument is overkill. It's like critiquing a hobbyist woodworker because the Burj Khalifa exists.


Yep.

I enjoy music. I can appreciate both huge budget years-in-the-studio album recordings, as well as three young jazz players in a small bar who've not even rehearsed together bouncing ideas off standards.

I'm glad the OP has found a niche they're happy to create their art in. Good on them. (I bet I wouldn't much enjoy working at Blizzard either, in spite of the amazing games they're capable of creating.)


I personally reject "hours of enjoyment" as a metric for value and depth of a purchased game. It's good to hear that you've had positive experiences, but the dark side is that for many it drifts towards being an addictive time-suck that eats money for nothing in return.


When did this opinion start taking such a hold? Out of all places, I didn’t think HN would be so anti-games but I’ve been seeing more and more people saying this here.

Could someone who feels this way expand on why they have such a negative view on games? Just curious if it’s personal, cultural, or something else?

Also, is it directed at complex games with storylines, online multiplayer, or mobile games meant to pull as much value as possible? Cause one is unlike the others.


My grandfather believes that video games are a "scourge" for young men today. I used to think he was old-fashioned for believing this, but I have come around to agreeing with him.

I wasted a large chunk of my life on Counterstrike, Arma 3, DayZ Mod, PUBG, and countless console games. _Thousands_ of hours in total. For me, games were more than an escape or simply a way to unwind. For me, they were a well-hidden addiction. They were an obstacle to reaching my potential. I can't see myself going back to games again and still being as happy as I am now.

I miss games sometimes -- I still occasionally watch them on Twitch or YouTube -- but quitting cold turkey over a year ago has been one of the best decisions I ever made. That I didn't give them up 10 years earlier is a source of great regret.

I'm probably not going to ban my children from playing games they buy with their own money, but I'll definitely have plenty of long talks with them about the dangers of gaming.


> I wasted a large chunk of my life on Counterstrike, Arma 3, DayZ Mod, PUBG, and countless console games. _Thousands_ of hours in total. For me, games were more than an escape or simply a way to unwind. For me, they were a well-hidden addiction. They were an obstacle to reaching my potential. I can't see myself going back to games again and still being as happy as I am now.

Substitute "football" or "drinking with friends" or other outdoor activities for the videogames here. Or "reading a book". It's all the same thing. It's natural for young people today (at least those in more well-off places) to spend absurd amounts of time in a way they later on may consider waste. It's natural for adults to spend some time like this too. We call this entertainment - stuff you do for fun.

Grass is always greener, but you'd probably burn out if you tried to spend those thousand of hours working in your economical self-interest instead. If you were doing something else for fun instead, you could be regretting that today, wishing you played some videogames a bit more. And even if you wouldn't, you would be a different person. The time you spent on videogames - the experiences, the stories, the people - are a part of you right now. And it's not like videogames are unique in enabling escapism; if you look around, plenty of people are escaping from their lives into books, or sports.


People did divorced or slacked at work over too much "football and drinking with friends". And too much of both indeed prevented people to reach their potential.

It is not like games would be special in impact when you do it too much. What is special is that most people cant play football that much due to physical limitations.

So when book reading has the same addictive quality that makes one play till night regularly or that makes you yell at kids because they interrupted your play, people complain all the same. It just happen less often with books and movies, because of their shorter length and easier way to space out sessions.


There are numerous cases of gaming addiction out there, with the most extreme stories occurring in some cafes in China. Just because gaming has a high utility value for you doesn't mean others can't be affected negatively.

I have yet to see anyone seeking treatment because they read too many books or spend too much time with their friends.


>anyone seeking treatment because they read too many books or spend too much time with their friends.

I do find it disingenuous that you happened to leave off many of the negative interactions that have also dropped in occurrences when people don't 'hang out with friends'. Young men in particular, when hanging out in groups, have a penchant to find trouble or commit crimes. People don't seek treatment for hanging out with their friends, they seek treatment because they hang out and drink/do drugs with their friends, etc.

Almost any behavior can become negative. People also tend to min/max.


Background: I have been playing video games for 25 odd years now. It has highly reduced, I revert to a bunch of youtube let's plays now.

- Equating games to watching football is disingenuous at best. Games tire you out mentally. I liked games because it gave me a thousand things to track at once and optimize (big fan of cataclysm DDA/Aurora/factorio/rimworld). But that came at a cost - am a zombie at the end of the session, fully drained. (Definitely happy). This is a big reason why I switched to watching videos instead. I definitely don't have the mental bandwidth for this.

- equating videogames to outdoor activities is again disingenuous. Outdoor activities have a definite social component to them (NO - eve didn't replicate this to even a small extent). Not to mention the health benefits. I know the general world is going towards more of a 'controlled experience', but I am still a strong believer in outdoors and semi-controlled experiences.

- Video games and books are definitely escapism. But fiction just doesn't engage your mind in the same way. Most non-fiction books either I will have to dedicate study time for it OR just fall asleep 30 pages in. All the motor function engagement and quick dopamine hits are just not the same in books.

I am not against video games, my thousands of steam / youtube hours should make that clear. BUT diluting the effect of them just makes the argument muddled.

IMO Video games are essentially alcohol without the liver-effects. Yeah it's a lot of fun in moderation if you are in control (OR if it doesn't pull you in like it does to addictive personalities) but they can pull you down a rabbit hole too deep to climb out of.


> Equating games to watching football is disingenuous at best. Games tire you out mentally.

I'd say such blanket statement is disingenuous as well. I can understand that playing complex games (like the ones you mentioned) can be mentally draining, but I don't believe a simple shooter or racing game would have the same effect.

And the same is true for watching videos - it all depends on the content you play/watch. If I'd be watching a video of someone teaching quantum physics, then I'm sure I'd also find myself mentally drained afterwards, even more so.

> equating videogames to outdoor activities is again disingenuous

Well, they are obviously different, not only because of the social component (which, as you wrote, is deeper in team sports) or health (but the balance is still shifting due to VR). They are also different because games train the mind, while sports do not.

> IMO Video games are essentially alcohol without the liver-effects. Yeah it's a lot of fun in moderation if you are in control (OR if it doesn't pull you in like it does to addictive personalities) but they can pull you down a rabbit hole too deep to climb out of.

Pretty much anything is "esentially alcohol without the liver-effects", if consumed without moderation. An adult person should know their own limits and be able to stop an activity, before it pulls them in, regardless of the type of activity.


> "football" [...] "drinking with friends" [...] videogames

One of these is not like the others.


I know right, drinking with friends keeps you in direct contact with your friends.


Addicting behaviour is dangerous, but you can get addicted to TV shows just as well. Gaming tends to be more addictive because it actively engages your brain, compared with traditional entertainment (movies, theatre, concerts) which are static, you just sit and watch.

As graphics keep improving I would argue that it might even replace cinema in the future, to some degree.

Also, gaming is just a vast area that it's hard to generalize the whole thing as "scourge". Some games improve critical thinking and can actually be great educational tools. Would you just read a boring history book or activelly engage in the political situation of medieval Europe by playing something like Europa Universalis.


> Addicting behaviour is dangerous, but you can get addicted to TV shows just as well. Gaming tends to be more addictive because it actively engages your brain, compared with traditional entertainment (movies, theatre, concerts) which are static, you just sit and watch.

The mechanism is strongly dependent on the person. I have much more of a problem with TV shows and fiction books than with videogames, because I'm a sucker for stories. A TV show or a book series can offer couple dozen hours of engaging storyline; most story-based video games are either much shorter, or the story is crap; the book-series-quality videogame storylines are few and far between. That's probably why I never got addicted to multiplayer games. By their nature they have no quality stories, so they bore me out quickly.

(I'm aware that there are people for whom the "active engagement" part is a core ingredient in addiction. I'm just saying that it's not the only mechanism, and different people are susceptible to different things.)


What I see not being discussed in such discussions is that Gaming is a high effort activity compared to watching TV. It requires patience, and adaption to delayed gratification, even some discipline to play many games, compared to watching video content.


> Out of all places, I didn’t think HN would be so anti-games

More time spent videogaming means less time spent leetcoding, raising VC, and crushing it as a 10x engineer! /s


Generally, less time for all kind of other things in life.

Game addiction is a thing (as is "tons of hours spent but not clinically addicted"). And unlike e.g. workaholism, it doesn't even result in a career to show for it.


I think some games do have a dark side, crafted by the creators to hook into the psyche of the players.

I talked to a developer of a popular free-to-play game, and he told me of many of the psychological hooks they use in their game.

Exploitation of hoarding behavior, community fame for specific players, random occurrences that are carefully scripted, etc.

Nowadays it's hard to find games free of ulterior motives.

Yes, addictive games and personalities have always existed, but now there's money mixed in.


Videogames have always had "money mixed in", profitable videogame studios are as old as videogames themselves, and your glasses are just rose tinted.

I'm not even sure what kind of "old" game you're picturing that you think didn't have "money mixed in" - tetris? pong? goldeneye?


I guess the difference is that classic videogames make their money by a single purchase upfront. Modern MMO/F2P games need the player to get hooked and spend their money on loot boxes and outfits.


Arcades were a thing before home consoles. The entire premise of an arcade is to get people hooked on short tasks of intermediate reward so they keep churning their coins into the machine.


Arcades are also a fundamentally social experience, which changes the tenor significantly.

No, most online games don’t count as social. They’re anonymous, faceless, and typically populated with the utter dregs of humanity willing to say the most vile thing to get attention. Genuine human interaction this is not.


> Arcades are also a fundamentally social experience, which changes the tenor significantly.

The social experience has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Carnival games and casinos are also engineered to prey on the same human responses - often transparently engineered to be addictive - yet are social environments too.

Plus the people who develop problems will often be sat on their own - hooked on the machine they're playing and oblivious to anyone around them in spite of the social setting.

> No, most online games don’t count as social. They’re anonymous, faceless, and typically populated with the utter dregs of humanity willing to say the most vile thing to get attention. Genuine human interaction this is not.

That very much depends on the game and community you meet. Some fall into the category you describe while there are others that do not.

There are plenty of inspiring stories like the following that show good communities and genuine friendships can spring from online gaming:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-47064773


The few time I talked with another player in a MMO, even as a noob, were cordial. I'd say it depends on the kind of people playing the game, I guess


>typically populated with the utter dregs of humanity

Or, pretty typical 13 to 25 year olds, millions of them, people that could be your son or daughter or friend, and who you enjoy the company otherwise everyday...

>willing to say the most vile thing to get attention. Genuine human interaction this is not

Or perhaps totally genuine (which is different than "compassionate"), and context-appropriate?

It's a competition, from the ancient times you're meant to take sides, disparage the opponent, sing a nice insulting song against the other team, and enjoy crushing them!


“trash talk” is fine but I think what the former poster was referring to is the trolls. Online gaming is no different to any other online activity in that regard (or even real life playground “banter”). Ie some people are little shits and others aren’t. The trick is to give the shits a wide birth; which is often easier said than done.


>I'm not even sure what kind of "old" game you're picturing that you think didn't have "money mixed in" - tetris? pong? goldeneye?

How about an old adventure game, where you were expected to pay once, enjoy the story and quizzes, and complete in X time (no "dark patterns" etc)?

And of which the creators were as passionate about the their creation and genre as you, as opposed to cynical 'let's make another addictive MMOG' or 'let's make another FarmVille' or 'let's make Angry Birds 335' studios?

Food also has "money mixed in" but you can have a honest local food joint, and you can also have a global "give them crap" chain like McDonalds. Sometimes with identical prices too.


>And of which the creators were as passionate about the their creation and genre as you, as opposed to cynical 'let's make another addictive MMOG' or 'let's make another FarmVille' or 'let's make Angry Birds 335' studios?

This is how I feel too. All games are addictive and have psychological "feel good" hooks in them. However it feels like a lot of those scummy mobile games prioritize engineering addiction and exploiting those hooks over making a fun game. Add to that recent controversies about some games being considered gambling which, as an industry, shares this goal of making people addicted to the rush so that they spend more.

What pains me the most is that it works. People vote with wallets and support these developers.


Except than game based on a one-time purchase, without any kind of expectation of recurring revenue from IAP/lootboxes, wouldn't get much benefit from too many dark pattern equivalents/skinner boxes, but rather from being a fun game.


Also I would say it might a difference in priority: one game could be designed to be as fun as possible, which might cause it to be addictive to some player; whereas a F2P game would optimise in addictivness first and foremost, since its business model rely on it.


Ha, I was thinking historically like solitaire or chess or bridge or the like.

The real exception is gambling games.

And I did think along the same lines (in a very minor way) with arcade games. Pinball - where skill let you prolong a game gave way to video games (like pacman or tetris you mentioned), which quickly got too hard to keep going. And it went further when games like gauntlet kept you feeding quarters in a pay to play way.

But at that time, we got atari and nintendo and so forth. Pay once, play for a long time. Kids grew up with this, and parents worried about the cost of a cartridge.

But the current crop of games is free, yet blatantly money oriented. Plants vs Zombies pre-EA vs post-EA comes to mind. Add grinding and then pay to not grind.

Yes, a little rose colored. But in vegas you can actually register as a compulsive gambler and the casinos will not serve you.


There is money in getting players addicted to increase revenue. The oldest example of that might be WoW but that was far less manipulative nor focused kn whales like many mobile games nowadays are.


I for one love video games. When done right, they are my favorite art form.

I am "anti" any game that uses psychological tricks to get me to keep playing. And for stuff like Celeste, Gris, and Hellblade and Portal that keep me engaged by providing an inherently fulfilling experience.


Lately I’ve been finding that I enjoy very story-centric games more and more. I loved Night in the Woods, Detroit: Become Human, Red Dead Redemption, Life is Strange, God of War and others for their story telling ability. I still play other games and am a big fan of FROM SOFT games (although they have incredible storytelling in their own way), but the story-heavy games suck me in like no TV series or movie ever has. I think it’s a mixture of interactivity and simply being longer than a movie that makes it easier to connect with and care about characters.

As an aside, I almost hated Celeste. I’d given up on it and uninstalled it, but was prompted to try again by a YouTube comment (of all things) and when I did, a few screens after where I stopped, it got good. Incredibly unbelievably good. I’m glad I gave it another chance!


Yeah, it's one of those games that's a lot more than it seems on the surface. Which I really love about it, but also means some players may miss out.


Celeste was incredible. Can't wait for the free DLC! Have you played A Hat in Time yet?


I was excited for A Hat in Time and backed it on Kickstarter, but it felt kind of weirdly unpolished to me. I got up to the third world. I generally love 3D platformers too.


I couldn't put it down. I think they unnecessarily skimped on things like animation frames, the amount of badges, maybe one more level... but it still came across as an earnest effort by 7 people working remotely on a budget.

It had a fraction of the budget and development man hours of Yooka-Laylee and yet came out better in pretty much every conceivable way. The controls may not be as tight as Celeste's but it's the best 3D platformer I've played in years.


I’m not anti-games, but as I went through college and then started working full time I found I first ran out of time for games and later had lost most of my interest. Now a days I feel like I get more value from exercising, socializing (which can include playing games on the same tv!), or need to do other things (chores, projects), so I can see where the sentiment that games are “a waste of time” can come from.


Indeed. Working out and socializing face-to-face are where it's at. That said, I will find the time for a big AAA game if it's a franchise I already love (DOOM, Deus Ex, Half-Li.. nevermind)

My scarce gaming time these days seems to be spent playing stuff from the 80s/90s and arcade games that I can pick up and put down easily. I don't even do mobile games, the grinding and dark patterns annoy the hell out of me.


I’ve held a similar opinion for a long time now, but not from an anti-game perspective; enjoyment is simply an overloaded term, and trivial to hack (want to make a nearly any mediocre game enjoyable? Play it with friends.) It often just amounts to “I was content to lose N hours into it”, which on its own is a pretty worthless statement (and if its the only statement, a pretty damning one).

Games are often treated as, and judged as, timesinks. A good game is simply a good timesink. A good timesink makes use of addictive/gambling mechanics. And most games rely heavily on them (sometimes unintentionally; this is likely less true the closer you get to today).

But in my opinion games can be a lot more interesting than that, and “enjoyable” is a crass description of it. For example, I probably put over 2000 hours into league of legends when I was younger, but those hours were mostly a waste. Back then, I described it as enjoyable. Now I realize I never cared about LoL, I just had my social life there. The game was never actually good, and what little I actually think of it is only about the human components (and a little about how not to design a competitive game). The 15 hours I put into star control 2 were far more valuable (if only because it informed me how little, if not backwards, we progressed from it to mass effect, in terms of game design).

I have a negative opinion on games, but its because I like them. Most games are shit, and the industry has mostly been getting worse over time.

Also out of your three, I know you were referring to “complex games with storylines” as the “good” type, but taking a random lottery, multiplayer games are the only ones with any reasonable hope of actually being interesting, mostly by accident. Most “complex games” are completely superficial; multiplayer games naturally bring depth by “cheating” — the humans bring 90% of it.

But I like games. Theoretically. Sometimes, in practice.


> little about how not to design a competitive game

I’d love to hear more about this, although I guess it’s a bit off topic... I played LoL for a while, but never too obsessively or heavily. It was mainly an activity to share with some coworkers so I suppose, like you say, it wasn’t so much about the game itself. I certainly didn’t play it competitively, so maybe that’s why I don’t see it as bad as you make it sound. (I also hear it’s got worse and more lootbox greedy. I last played it circa 2014).

One set of “complex” non-multiplayer (at least, 90% of the time I played single player) games that I do, personally, find incredibly interesting on a multitude of levels are the FROM SOFTWARE games. Even ignoring the difficulty (although I really do enjoy the challenge — or more accurately, when I eventually overcome it), I love the world building, the characters, the intricate level design, the deep but vague and mostly environmental storytelling, the rich implied but often left open to interpretation lore, the aesthetics and the voice acting of Demons’ Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne and in the past two weeks, Sekiro. I could (and have done) play nothing but one of these games for months and still find them interesting. Few they games manage this, for me, though.


>I’d love to hear more about this, although I guess it’s a bit off topic...

I'm not sure HN is the place to discuss such things, and I'm not sure even that interesting – the major gripes are mostly obvious, but fundamental; eg reliance on champion-global external systems like summoner spells, runes and whatever they call their current system, which all make it extremely difficult to balance things locally. They've been consistently getting better at it. Lootboxes that is, not game design.

>find incredibly interesting on a multitude of levels are the FROM SOFTWARE games.

FROM is an interesting company, because they were never meant to be popular. They were happy wiling away in their obscurity, constantly iterating on the same niche games (King's Field, Armored Core, etc), until DeS became an accidental hit; I'm not sure the popularity was good for them – the games are misunderstood as simply "difficult" (typically compared to "arcade difficult", but they're not; they're punishing, they trick you, and require a minimal degree of patience that can be found in almost no other modern game, but they eventually push you towards success. Arcade difficult is a vastly different beast, asking for pixel-perfect input, few if any alternative strategies, repetitive play and exceptional punishment to wring those juicy quarters out of you), and that moniker apparently confused From's weaker teams, leading to the mess of DaS 2/3. Annoyingly, their Souls success seems to eaten Armored Core's lunch too.

Probably the most amazing thing about FROM is that they actually learn from their previous work. You can look at King's Field -> DaS lineage and see actual, consistent improvement. Even when they sidestep into Bloodborne and Sekiro, they manage to take lessons with them (and make new mistakes).

But yeah, the industry has its companies and its auteurs. Platinum, Grasshopper Studio, From Software, Clover, iD, Blizzard North, Sid Meier, Kojima, Carmack, Ford & Reichie, Tarn/Zach Adams, (From & Nintendo's) Miyazaki, Mikami, etc. And you'll consistently find interesting output from them, and games worth their salt (Carmack is a bit funny because he doesn't really give a shit about games, his stuff is always technically interesting, and sometimes game-interesting).

But the annoying thing is that that you can take probably 90% of games today, and find something that did the same thing better 20 years ago. Hell, I'm beginning to doubt most game designers are even aware games existed before 2000.

The only thing we're making any real progress on is graphics.. and thats just towards realism. We've lost a lot in style. I mean hell, it's difficult to find games where player interaction is even a base concept of its design, and thats the primary thing games introduce as a medium!


Thanks for your reply!

> the major gripes are

Ah, yes, I agree with that at all. You can feel how hard the balancing is from how they kept changing the existing characters, basically, trial-and-error balancing.

> leading to the mess of DaS 2/3

DaS 2 is a good game, if taken on its own merit. Its just that compared to DaS 1, it was a step backwards (certainly in terms of world and level design). DaS 3 I really like. It has a lot of missed opportunities in terms of the world and the world is less interesting because of it (I also largely feel that being able to bonfire teleport from the start is to blame -- in the first one, no teleport, connected level design and scattered merchants meant you had to learn the level layout because you would travel through it a lot), but overall, its a lot more refined than the earlier games in terms of mechanics and controls and the game itself was pretty good. At least, I don't call it a mess. I do like DaS 1 and BB more (maybe even DeS too), but I don't dislike it at all. I do wish for an Armoured Core game though (and Tenchu, although Sekiro scratches that itch for now).

I don't fully agree that the only real progress is in graphics. Yes, there are many uninspired games out now, but there is plenty of progress being made, in my opinion, outside of graphics, certainly in things like branching storylines and just in general games are mechanically more refined (camera and controls of 3D games are now a solved thing, back in the early days of 3D, both were terrible) and certainly if you look beyond the AAA games, there's a lot of creativity (story, gameplay mechanics). But even the shiney graphically fancy 3D games like God of War managed to pull together an experience that is more than just graphics. However, I do agree that many less-inspired AAA titles focus on visuals at the expense of everything else still, I just think there are enough alternative options that I can ignore those games without missing anything and still having more games to play than I have time for.

> it's difficult to find games where player interaction is even a base concept of its design, and thats the primary thing games introduce as a medium!

Agreed, too many games really do suck at this and I agree that this is where games could (eventually will, IMHO) shine compared to other types of entertainment, but they're certainly not there yet.


The opinion that "hours of enjoyment" is a poor metric isn't an anti-game opinion; it's just a response to grind-heavy games.

After all, I could double the length of Game X by adding twice as many handmade maps, well written and acted cut scenes, and carefully designed encounters - or I could double the length by adding extra grind.

The former would be something to be celebrated; the latter wouldn't.


>When did this opinion start taking such a hold? Out of all places, I didn’t think HN would be so anti-games but I’ve been seeing more and more people saying this here.

HN has many grown-ups, which might skew it a little from the "games all the time are great / custom game rig" demographic.

>Also, is it directed at complex games with storylines, online multiplayer, or mobile games meant to pull as much value as possible? Cause one is unlike the others.

In the end, their value is time wasted translated into money. It's not like even the more evolved ones make some big artistic statement with deep meaning. Even the best are at the level of a Hollywood movie (and usually closer to Michael Bay than Kubrick).


It's an old and tired adage by this point but it seems it falls to me to be the "time spent doing something you enjoy is never wasted" guy this time around.


Old and tired is OK, but this one to me looks invalid too.

I can't say of anybody's personal goals, but "time spent doing something [one] enjoys" is often wasted.

First, because every time you spent has an opportunity cost.

Second, because empirically peoples' future self often doesn't have the same priorities, and occasionally finds "time spend doing something they enjoyed" wasted and a bad choice.

How many regret e.g. wasting too much time gaming when they should have been e.g. studying or practicing, when they turn 25 and have nothing to show for it?


I only speak from personal experiences with the business side of things. It's a combination of despotic upstream vendors, highly addictive products aimed towards children, lack of regulations, abusive working environments, and a general contentedness with profiting directly from the misfortunes of others. I do not believe any corners of the industry are safe from this attitude at the moment, despite the marketing veneer they may put on. And yes, if I sound cynical, it's because I am suffering from burnout at the moment.


Personally I've become disillusioned with most online multiplayer games (I've played WoW, Dota 2, etc. for thousands of hours) and I've been a lot happier now I pretty much only play single player offline games.

Offline games can be played when I want (mostly in the evening for an hour or so) and there's no pressure to improve like in Dota 2 and WoW.

One of my favourite purchases recently was a PSP Vita, I can emulate most GB, GBC, GBA, PS, PSP, PS Vita, and many others and I'm having a whole lot of fun going back to play many games that I'd missed in the past.


Hello, I'm a gamer/game-maker (table top, not digital) with some opinions.

Gamers are getting older. As in, the median age of people who identify as "gamers" is higher now than ever before. Part of this is because people who grew up with video games as children are now adults. People have always played games (chess is a great example) it's just what role gaming has played in the culture changes.

Since you now have a larger demographic of older gamers, you're going to start hearing more voices echoing this. When I was in college, I could spend 20+ hours a week playing video games until 3 AM. Now that I'm older and married I'm lucky if I get 5 hours a week for non-mobile games. I'm going to have a different evaluation of a title. The last thing I want is to buy a shiny new FPS just to get pwnd repeatedly by some 14 year old who keeps tbagging me and screaming racist taunts. Loot crates and pay-to-win feels gross because I don't want to dump money that I could be using for home repairs on add-ons for my toys.

I'm not anti-games. I love games. But I can hate tons of aspects of the games (like I mentioned above) or call out the toxicity of gamer culture and still be a part of it. This is a stark contrast to 15 years ago when we all needed to band together to explain that games can be art and that FPSs to lead to school shootings.


For me, it was close contact with addicted gamers and watching how their interactions with other people changed over time. Addicted gamer is not the same as gamer. I used to like games, going to through this and realizing that those games are specifically build to cause such affection and community specifically praises it made me unwilling to play again ever.

Even when I still played and did not yet seen addiction in practice up close yet, I realized that complex game with storylines and online multiplayer games are build for people who have the kind of free time that is incompatible with full time job, family and additional learning.


I used to spend a lot of time on games, then I realised what a waste of time it is, when you can spend that time learning or creating stuff.


I understand that "hours of enjoyment" can get extreme with addictive personalities and I think it's super relevant to point out games that use tactics specifically to trap users and extract in-app purchases from them but...

As a general rule I think "hours of enjoyment" is about as optimal as you can get for leisure payoff, the alternative "how much I learned" is nice too, whether that's literal stuff (like trivia), strategic growth or else can vary on a title-to-title basis.

But I do understand where you're coming from.


This is particularly true of, say, many mobile games. But conversely, if not hours of enjoyment, then by what metric do we gauge a good game? Perhaps there’s a line here between hours of enjoyment and hours of mindless engagement?


Hours of enjoyment benefits certain types of games versus others.

Return of the Obra Dinn is a pretty short game, I put 13 hours into it by playing quite slowly (and there's a not inconsiderable amount of AFK time in there as well), I doubt I'll touch it again any time soon (because the structure gives it zero replayability value), and I would count it as one of the absolute best games I've ever played. Portal 1 is a 4 or 5 hour game and, again, one of the best ever.

On the other end of the spectrum, games like Minecraft, Oxygen Not Included or Factorio are enormous, all-absorbing time sinks that will consume your every waking hour for months or years on end if you let them.

How do I compare ONI and Obra Dinn and say that either is, in any objective sense, better than the other?


May be the measure should be how harmful it is to continue?

For an MMO, you're engaged socially (presumably in a guild, rather than soloing). In a mobile grind game, you spend hours constantly checking on progress for that endorphine hit.


Same as with any addictive thing, you can use and you can abuse. And the change isn't instant.

You can play MMO socially in a guild, or you can simply grind max levels / rare items endlessly.

You can play an IAP and ad-riddled mobile game to kill some time when waiting in queues, or you can have it become a part of your life checking the game everytime you have a minute of downtime.

And the transitions between those states happen impreceptibly, and there is no defined line beyond which you may consider the activity harmful.


> an addictive time-suck that eats money for nothing in return.

You just described mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing, running a marathon, skydiving, surfing, scuba diving, and just about every other amateur athletic pursuit.


There are clear returns there: immersion in nature, cardiovascular/muscular/mental fitness, tolerance to pain, social bonding, etc.


> immersion in nature

That's a benefit for those who consider it a benefit. I personally don't find this interesting.

> social bonding

This applies to plenty of videogames as well - both directly to multiplayer, and to singleplayer games as social objects for discussions with other people.

> cardiovascular/muscular/mental fitness, tolerance to pain

In the same sense, videogames exercise your reaction time, complex reasoning skills and spatial awareness.

Point being - side effects are side effects, but both videogames and those outdoor pursuits listed are just waste of time, economically speaking.


> That's a benefit for those who consider it a benefit.

Some reading on green exercise:

http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_543531_en.ht...


I won't deny that. With the exception of long-distance running, all of those are cost-prohibitive luxury activities, just like gaming.


It must be one heck of a fun title to take someone who would — if not for that dratted game! — be a productive pillar of the community and make her a bump on a log.

The far simpler, albeit non-egalitarian, explanation is some people are more productive and others will find ways to waste time.


I agree with you, but I still am highly disturbed by "whale hunting" aka certain entities manipulating those types of people into spending as much money as possible in exchange for being able to withdraw even further from productive society.


amplified by the new model of game design to drive loot box sales above all else, which means fun gameplay is no longer a priority compared to designing systems that encourage users to spend on microtransactions, especially addictive-personality types.

quoting a comment from another thread "it used to be that you felt good because you were having fun. In this new era of micro transactions the games aren’t even fun anymore. There is only frustration, and then you pay to alleviate that frustration. You sometimes find yourself sitting there say, “why am I even doing this?”"


Hi, I'm the author of the post. Thank you for your thoughts!

I certainly don't want everyone to make business card games. I do however want games that are tighter and more focused. Like imagine RDR2 without the mini games, shorter story, and just much better core mechanics. That's the game I want to play.

I will say though that philosophically a deep and complex game can already exist on a business card. Take the classic board game go for example. Someone could probably code that (minus the AI) on a business card, and it's one of the most complex games known to man that people have been playing for thousands of years.

The lesson I was going for is not anything can be simple, we already know that.

The lesson is more about how developers are so focused on making games fun that we sometimes forget that making games should be fun too. I really do believe that for any kind of artist, to create great art, it's more important to have fun creating something then what the actual end product is.

Also that there is value in simplicity, it is sometimes worth creating something that seems pointless just because it's fun. The journey towards it may yield unexpected rewards.


> Like imagine RDR2 without the mini games, shorter story, and just much better core mechanics

Or a RPG without fetch quest


To each their own. I don't like Overwatch or games like Fallout simply because of the 1500 hours. I like to complete a game within a month or so. Much longer and it feels like work (work is fun too and if I'm going to get good at something, it should at least pay the bills).

My sweet spot would actually be games like Rimworld or Kittens. Something that you can find closure in about 20 hours of gameplay.

I feel like games have become so unwinnable, that there's a whole new market to pay people to win games.


20 hours for Rimworld? I've spent nearly a hundred in there and never even got close to endgame. That is a sandbox game without an end - however, one with constant entertainment though.

But I feel you about longer games starting to feel like work. I really want to like the Witcher 3 for example, but there's just so much content in there. I've started my playthrough two years ago and still haven't gotten to the end of the game. Or, I thought I did, but turns out it wasn't yet. And then there's some DLC which also got great reviews and promises of a huge amount of content.

Currently I'm playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, which bombed because of reasons but it's a pretty good game with a ton of content, can't go wrong for €7. Its missions are episodic enough that you can play for an hour at a time if you're limited in time.


Yeah, 20 hours for Rimworld seems impossible. I never got to the endgame, and I think on one playthrough I had something like 70+ hours before my colony collapsed. The game is hard.

Good to know about ME:A; I was a huge fan of the original ME trilogy, but didn't pick up Andromeda because reviews made it feel like not worth the time and emotional investment. Maybe I'll reconsider.


I didn't mean winning though. I meant closure, as in you can crash and burn and still have fun. If you went through 20 hours of failing in Fallout 4, it wouldn't nearly be as fun.


Hah! I think I’ve spent about 500 hours in Rimworld and haven’t come close to the endgame. I’ve never gotten any of the spaceship parts or anything like that.


I've played Rimworld since the Kickstarter beta. Back in the old days, it was possible to finish the space ship over the weekend. I guess the game has also crept much larger and added more filler.


I played it quite early too (I don't remember if I kickstarted , it or bought it after, but it was long before it was on Steam). Yes, it has become much larger, but its not filler, in my opinion, because the additional content adds additional depth and nuance to the game, characters and the story that unfolds. Much of it can also be ignored, if you so wish, because its based around content that you can construct (eg if you want to ignore the alcohol system, then don't grow hops and brew beer). I suppose you could call that filler, but it exists because if you do want to make use of it, its systems integrate with the games other systems and create interesting stories as it gives the characters more depth.

You're probably right though, I suppose it also made the game much harder to "complete" compared to the early days.


Rimworld tries its best to be a drama generator, but unfortunately doesn't do a good job at it. A lot of the additions for the drama side added little actual "depth" and more on "breadth". For example, factions, family relationships, and cleanliness are more tedious than fun. You don't really go "OMG, that's hilarious", you go "Oh come on why'd you have to kill your daughter?"

I think is the big problem with many AAA games these days is that breadth (more unnecessary features) is a lot easier than adding depth.

Compare with Dwarf Fortress, where you can make a mermaid bone farming industry, reservoirs, magma powered river thawing system, waterfall dining rooms, or a magma powered waste disposal system.


My feelings are somewhat more mixed. Many open world games are wonderful for both the creative output of their developers and because it allows for more creative game play from the player. Closure isn't really a big thing to me since it is all about exploring the worlds and creating my own place in it. If anything, the lack of closure is a bit of a bonus since there is always something to return to.

On the other hand, I am often left questioning the value exploration and creativity in virtual worlds when there are so many alternatives. This is especially true since many of those alternatives can be equally engaging and relaxing.


You might like Waking Mars. It would be a shorter game, probably finish in a week of evenings, and I could see doing it in an otherwise non-productive weekend. The gameplay really sucks you in. Here's the review that got me into it.

https://jayisgames.com/review/waking-mars.php


>I am not sure that it's fair to compare a business card game to AAA games. The depth and complexity just isn't there. It's a randomly generated ski slope that you press left or right to navigate. Fun for a few minutes? Sure. But fun for multiple sessions? Not really.

You'd be surprised. People still enjoyed playing Tetris, which has equally minimal mechanics, after decades...


Yes, but come up with equally good minimal mechanics like tetris or go. Once? You are a game design genius. Twice? Has anybody ever done that?


I don't think it's about mechanics.

I still remember some of the games we played on cheap Russian handheld consoles back in the mid 90s. Tetris and snake, but also a racing game that had the same mechanics like Tiny Ski, except upside down and with the logical game board three blocks wide. I had a lot of fun with that racer; I can picture it in my mind more vividly than most of my adult memories.

The three games I mention definitely cross the "affecting life" threshold, in the sense of becoming a small part of the culture - I could ask Polish people my age about these games, and many would remember them. But they didn't become part of the culture because of their mechanics being good in the absolute sense. They did because of availability, context of play, and their mechanics being good compared to other games available at the time.

Were Tetris to come out today, people would look at it, think "what a boring, shallow game" and go back to Candy Crush or whatever is currently the hottest casual.


>Were Tetris to come out today, people would look at it, think "what a boring, shallow game" and go back to Candy Crush or whatever is currently the hottest casual.

I don't think so. If anything Candy Crush has even less gameplay and is more boring and shallow than Tetris.


I think he’s making an argument that you can make games with much less code than we do now, not a serious argument that we should only make games that fit on a business card.


Yes. The same would apply to other areas as well. For example, a colleague of mine set up this weird elaborate web based data processing thing so that we could automate processing of files. I did the same thing he was trying to achieve with a couple of perl one-liners.

Maybe comparing business card games to AAA is a bad comparison, but comparing 'Return of the Obra Dinn' with 'LA Noire' might be more apt.


Totally agree. The current version of Nethack is ~204k lines of code. Modern AAA games have millions of lines. I don't think there's an order of magnitude more depth to most AAA games than there is in Nethack.


Nethack is 204k lines? That is amazingly bloated for what it is.

With dwarf fortress coming in at 381,764 I feel like it delivers a much higher amount of value/line.


Probably not terribly bloated, just old. The language (C), features (probably K&R C), libraries (pitiful compared to today), and portability concerns (nethack was ported to many platforms, DF comparatively few) it originally had to contend with made for a very different world back then. While I'm sure it's been updated/cleaned up over the decades, it probably still carries a lot of that design/baggage from the time it was written in.


Perhaps... but why must arguments always seem to be made on extreme examples?


How else would you know where the limits are?


Thank you for understanding!


I think the lesson to take away is not to take the author too literally.


Oh right, it's that day... so this is all just April Fools' BS.

Is it possible to get a [Parody] tag for HN to just highlight "Intelligent discussion need not happen here."


Nobody said this was just a joke.


> The depth and complexity just isn't there

That's literally what the author is saying, in the very passage you quoted. The idea of a game isn't inherently complicated, and even simple games can be most entertaining. You sound like a connoisseur of the modern PC experience, but most people in this world are not and would still like to enjoy something that's delightfully thoughtful, intriguing, and simple enough to pick up for a short time, but not so addicting that you can't drop it immediately for a real world responsibility.


> but most people in this world are not and would still like to enjoy something that's delightfully thoughtful, intriguing, and simple enough to pick up for a short time

Most gamers these days seem to be people who play on their smartphone. These games can be simple compared to AAA games, but they still need to be flashy and good-looking with an interesting game mechanic.


>but they still need to be flashy and good-looking with an interesting game mechanic.

If they have great/addicting gameplay, they don't have to be flashy and good-looking.


> If they have great/addicting gameplay, they don't have to be flashy and good-looking.

For that point, I think Tetris is a good example


I used to be obsessed with a terminal-based Tetris game built with ncurses. It helped me get through college lectures better than any other game.


> I've played something like 1500 hours of Overwatch that I bought for $30. The depth of the game is just spectacular, and it keeps you coming back to play more. They add new heroes and new maps regularly. The core game itself is fun. I've made many friends. I met my girlfriend in that game.

A lot of people could say many of the same things about Nethack -- or MUDs. Neither of which are business-card-sized, but they're closer to that extreme than to the AAA extreme.


Currently at about 200,000 lines of code, I'd say Nethack is much closer in size to the AAA games. Doom 3 was only about 360,000 including the engine.


And I should say that some games have fine tuned the experience of playing itself to absolutely frictionless level. For eg: Clash Royale, no ads, instantaneous match making(Considering how many games have agonizing lobby waits), 1v1 gameplay, so you need not have any friends available to team up, short games 3mins, varied gameplay(there are a number of cards, news ones introduced quite frequently).


>developers are constantly taken advantage of, made to crunch for no pay, mass layoffs, etc. Lives have been ruined, and for what? So you could watch your horse poop or play dominoes in an open world game?

Hard to feel too bad about people working on leisure products.

I'm sure if you swapped out Golf/NASCAR, people here would be less sympathetic.


> Hard to feel too bad about people working on leisure products.

How does that make any difference? It's not like the work is any less hard, or more fun.


If the work was less fun, or at least less desired, then the wages and hours would match the rest of the software industry.


The work is desired because kids grow up with dreams to make videogames, not because it is easy, or fun. Very few of them pay attention to industry conditions until it is too late. Very common in aspirational careers


I've watched lives literally be ruined by this industry. Why is it hard to feel bad for them just because they were doing what they loved and got shit on?


That sounds like the person's own problem.

If they can't keep work-life creep, they don't understand their own value.


Hm, I don't want to know how much time I spent with 2048. Definitely fun for much more than a few minutes ...


What's the binary size of Overwatch? What about SLOC?

Yes there probably isn't the complexity in a business card game. But there are plenty of < 1MB games that have depth and complexity. What do the many extra orders of magnitude in the size of overwatch actually get you?


I'm not sure AAA games have more depth and complexity. Usually, modern AAA games are just optimized for more polygons, yes there are minor outliers but I do believe business card games can have a fight in terms of complexity with a significant number of AAA games.


Well, 1500 hours, or 2 months in a row, thats a bit of a sad story. Not everybody here wants to waste their lives like this, there is much more to life. It may not feel like it, but once you discover properly amazing things you can do in your life (exotic travelling, adrenaline sports, whatever makes you tick), this behavior will look pretty bland and boring.

I have a colleague like this, and boy does he regrets wasting his life with online games of his era. Time that you can't bring back and spend in a better way.

So imagine, for those of us willing to spend maybe 10-20 minutes per day max at some simple fun (if at all), at our time, this kind of game is a blessing. Because you know, life out there, in analog world, can be pretty great and better than anything digital can bring.


In fairness, he's optimizing for "fun to write", not "fun to play".

It reminds me of a cartoon I saw 25 years ago, "the perfect airplane" drawn from various perspectives:

* The perfect airplane (pilot's perspective): Super sleek jet fighter.

* The perfect airplane (mechanic's perspective): A giant pile of access hatches in vaguely airplane shape.

* The perfect airplane (builder's perspective): A 2x4 with another 2x4 nailed across it as a wing, a smaller 2x4 nailed across it as a tail.


Do you think great artists make things that are fun to make, or do you think they really just try to make stuff that other people will enjoy?


A great artist makes things that are exceptionally unique and thought-provoking. A successful artist makes things that have wide enough appeal to generate sustainable income. Whether the piece is fun is irrelevant to the caliber of an artist, I think. Some artists toil night and day for finished products that mean nothing to anyone but them.


ideally both, but with a preferential disposition towards the former. I see no reason why it has to be one or the other. false dichotomy etc.


Not just artists. This is relevant for probably anyone with multiple successful side projects.

Finding stuff at the intersection of the set of things fun to make and the things other people will enjoy is the hardest part of deciding what project to work on. It's a skill. You need to have a lot of ideas to find one landing in this sliver.


How can you make a skiing game, out of ASCII characters, and not call it Askii?


Is it ASCII or Unicold?


That's irrelevant. Pretty much everyone calls text games "ASCII" regardless of the character set used. Take Dwarf Fortress, which uses an extended ASCII character set (code page 437).


cough, cough... UniCOLD


v1: Aski.

v2: AskII.

v3: AskiiFree.

Sorry, couldn't resist.


[rim shot]

Will you be here all night? How's the fish?


Super good. I suggest you try the freah Alaskan Slalom.


Haha


This is a blatant rip-off of my 17-line c64 basic game, Space Caverns, published in 1986 in Run Magazine.

http://www.gamebase64.com/game.php?id=12367&d=24&h=0

:)


You sure you didn't rip off 1982's Horace goes Skiing? :)

I remember the Horace games quite fondly, which usually in themselves were usually just Horace themed remakes of other games.


People are taking this awfully seriously for what is pretty clearly a tongue-in-cheek writeup. An article doesn't have to be an April Fools joke to be fun, nobody's obliged to be literal in all they say.


This gives me 509 Bandwidth Limit Exceeded. Here’s an archive.org link to the website: https://web.archive.org/web/20190402050012/http://frankforce...

The embedded video is on YouTube: https://youtu.be/PeWdBE82uLw


Less bloated software is always a good idea, I am a bit concerned with the idea that smaller source equals better programs. It seems to me that by sacrificing source size he has lost some readability, his example may be <1K but it's at the cost of increased difficulty debugging, porting and modding. IMHO removing formatting just to reduce source size and or line count is as bad as loading a huge library only to use one of said library's functions.


I agree. Code is ultimately for human consumption, so optimize for human readability and good organization.

That is of course very different to bloat. Bringing in hundreds of dependencies, tracking, analytics and using engineering patterns that are over-complex for the use case are probably habits we coule get better at in the industry.


It looks like a fun programming project..However, I am getting lost as to the purpose. Why write something so hard to comprehend just to get it into ~< 1K unless the only purpose is to get it small? Why not a larger game that is more fun to play? Why not a larger game that is still tight code, but good to teach game mechanics?


Hi, I'm the author of the post. The reason I made it is because I've already worked on a ton of other games and I wanted to try something different!

I've worked in the AAA industry for years on many games. Just recently on Doom, I remember that code was so bloated you could open "hands.cpp" and just hold page down for days. I've also released many games on my blog, like close to 40 games on there.

So the main point is just try creating something different. Maybe for you it's not writing tiny code, maybe it's something else that seems pointless but you know you will have fun doing it and at least create something in the end. Trust me, it will be worth it.


IMO art is all about working within constraints. i think this might be some of the most beautiful (if not maintainable) code out there. No body needs to maintain a picasso, just preservation.


One always has constraints, if only in time/budget/imagination. And those are some pretty boring, vanilla constraints.

Different constraints encourage or force different approaches, which gives you different results. You're not going to have a budgeting meeting over a <1K demo. You're not going to contract out to an artist. You're not going to use a large engine. You're not going to make a doom clone. You're not going to hum and haw over what middleware to use. It limits how much over-engineering you can invent. <1K is a pretty extreme constraint... but it's not that far off from what the demoscene does, and they discover some fascinating techniques and tricks in the process.


That's an excellent description of why I recall the days of inherent constraint as fondly as I do. I was an 8-bit console programmer back in the day. I've also worked in a later era of sophisticated engines, huge teams, artists and coders often assigned narrow specialties, managed by tiers of development directors and producers and administrative staff. Pros and cons, for sure.

So in hindsight, two more joyous aspects of constraint in game development (whether inherent or self-imposed):

1. Bugs, testing, quality. When you know your binary will be burned into a cartridge with no hope of a patch or update, one tends to code and test carefully! You fill your allocated ROM banks with as much "fun" as you can (code and content) but you know it must be well tested for both play balance and bugs because you can't release a version 1.1. :-)

2. Scope creep. This is much easier to avoid when you're given (e.g.) four 16KB banks of ROM for all your code and assets. So you burn midnight oil for mere months, not years, before you find out if your game is a hit or a stinker. Short feedback loops. More variety per year. Refreshing.


I think the concept here is like Code Golf. It can be fun to just write code that meets certain odd requirements, even if the end product is nothing super special.

https://codegolf.stackexchange.com/


Why play videogames at all? What does that accomplish?


Does it have to accomplish anything? Isn't it OK with you to do something for no other reason than is fun?


Isn't it OK with you to do something for no other reason than is fun?

That was his point.


Ding ding ding!


If you want to use this on Linux, you need to have wine installed, but it does work!

    curl https://www.dropbox.com/s/rmagppsuhwms28k/TinySki.exe -OL
    wineconsole TinySki.exe


This reminds me of early BASIC games that would run on IBM PC, compatibles, and other early computers with BASIC interpreters. I remember one such game that was almost exactly this.


I recall typing this exact game into the old Amiga, in the AMOS Professional interpreter, from a code listing in some magazine. It was not a very long code listing, but significantly more than 960 bytes! It had sound effects, too, and I think it scrolled the opposite direction. I guess that made it a racing game, not a skiing game.


That ski game reminds me so much of the Olympic Games Pack that Microsoft sold as an add on to the original games (Solitaire, Minesweeper etc.) that can installed with Windows back in the day.

I must say that those little mini games were some of the most enjoyable ones I've ever played. Useful to burn a few minutes while waiting for compile to finish or a call to be returned. I've never really gone for any really immersive games in my time.

Nowadays, my favourite game to kill a few minutes at a doctor's surgery or something is F-Sim. It doesn't classify as a simple game, but just 2 minutes as a test of skill to shoot a random approach and landing in the Space Shuttle and I am happy.


Those games were the best for wasting time at school


I remember metrics such as how long can you keep playing it, e.g. people still play Kong or PacMan or WoW, different styles, different depth, but each has its own crowd. Another metric is 'how long does it take to finish' and we know that for games like WoW or Fortnite, it is 'eternity'. I find this more as an interesting notion, get people to appreciate the format and then develop it to something else, but for some reason (most) people have rejected those pixels and are on-board to far larger widths and heights, and in colour. I do not want another WAP when I have 4G though.

I do admire and respect the effort and the skill though!


I'm assuming that the business card size restriction is an April Fool's joke. There's already a pretty big movement of people dissatisfied with the big AAA games: the indie video game scene. I can't believe someone in the video game world wouldn't know about that.

Actually, now I wonder if the whole post was actually supposed to be taking the piss out of indie game developers? If so, that's pretty damned elitist, as there are many many many good indie games that I'd happily play over most AAA titles. Plus there are great AAA titles that started life in the indie game scene, like Portal.


Hi, I'm the author of the post. I actually am an indie dev myself and have many smallish games as well as worked in AAA for years.

I think indie developers tend to get it right more often, but anyone can fall into the wrong approach of over-complicating their games with needless features that actually detract from the fun.

Like take for example RDR2. Imagine if instead of having all those silly mini-games, they just polished the core combat and movement mechanics more. That's the game I want to play.

I guess I was trying to say a few things with this post, but one big part is that removing stuff from a game and making it simpler is often better then adding more stuff. I talk much more about that in my epic js1k post coming soon!


I think the code length restriction is a great way to distill a game concept into the "core fun", which is what more people should be focusing on when making them IMHO.

If you go on say /r/gamedev, you'll see all kinds of posts of people stuck down rabbit holes of negligible design, like how to make the best hair physics. A lone developer could spend a year's worth of free time implementing things that don't make the game any more fun or complete.


I think you get that kind of potential to get stuck on inconsequential details in any design. It happens in video game design of course, but also board game design, and graphic design, and software design in general, among many other fields. Most general design guides encourage iteration and refinement, and when it comes to game design specifically that comes across as the push for frequent prototypes and playtests so you can refine the mechanics. (In the software world it often comes across as the "minimum viable product" concept.) I think people who get stuck on details in ways like you mentioned are people who never learned this, whether self taught or formally educated, or they're forgetting those tenets of design.


This reminds me of the PICO-8 [0] environment used on the PocketCHIP [1]. It supports encoding the full game data into a picture that looks like a cartridge [2].

> Pico-8 games and the program's interface are limited both to a 128x128 pixel, sixteen-color display, with a 4-channel audio output.

> The .p8.png format is a binary format based on the PNG image format. A .p8.png file is an image that can be viewed in any image viewer (such as a web browser). The image appears as the picture of a game cartridge.

> The cart data is stored using a stegonographic process. Each Pico-8 byte is stored as the two least significant bits of each of the four color channels, ordered ARGB. The image is 160 pixels wide and 205 pixels high, for a possible storage of 32,800 bytes.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pico-8

[1]: https://shop.pocketchip.co/collections/frontpage/products/po...

[2]: https://pico-8.fandom.com/wiki/P8PNGFileFormat


I had 1 kB to write my games in BASIC on my Sinclair ZX18 at the beginning of the 80s. One of those games looked like that Tiny Ski in the post. I don't know how many people would have enjoyed playing it (but there weren't many great games back then for the ZX81) however I definitely enjoyed programming, playing and fixing those games.


Can't remember the exact name, but yeah, I've seen that game before in the 80s, either on a C-64 or MSX.


Oh, they print the game on a paper business card - I thought this would be about handheld games on one of those credit-card-sized consoles.

Those are cool, but I guess the games are also much bigger at tens to hundreds of kilobytes.

Fun project, thanks for sharing!


I thought it was a card game printed by a business card company (which probably doesn't make sense anyway. I'm sure they charge more per card than other printers, and the cards would have to be sorted)


When I was a kid in the 1970's games came in a credit card sized form factor. Pacman, donkey Kong, (MAME types of games). We all had a bunch of these games with us in our bags. Each device could play one specific game.


I remember the orange coloured casing for the donkey kong game we had in the house. It was my mothers, and I eventually grew up with the original Game Boy. But it was my first game device and I played it religiously.


yeah, me too ))

Here is how it looked like. Donkey Kong has dual screens. Most other games only one.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d9/Ni...


Brings back memories of the little "ten liner" games and other toys in Electron User magazines and similar.

Sometimes one-liner examples (it was surprising how much you could squeeze out of 253 bytes of BBC Basic).

Anyone with back-issues of that bread of magazine from back then has a little trove of inspiration for this sort of thing.

You can do a lot with small amounts of code, especially if you allow the use of complex libraries and only count the include() & calls in the byte-/character-count rather than including the whole size of the library.


This makes me think of Kairosoft (the company that makes all those relaxed, bite-sized simulation games) as one of the examples of a company sustainably making a huge number of small, inexpensive, but engaging games. I think part of their secret sauce is in how they take some of the same basic gameplay concepts and adapt them to different themes with just enough new stuff to change the gameplay loop, so the conceptual development overhead is minimized to just the new stuff.


I like the idea of business card sized pieces of useful or potentially useful code. However, it's not useful for much beyond putting it on a business card.


It's interesting that a "business card sized game" is still interesting in 2019. IE, there will be people who want to play it... a game that would have been at home in 1978.

I think there's a parallel here to film/tv. You can make a billion dollar "avatar." People like those, but there's always room for a "blair witch project" or a "clerks" that someone can decide and make.


The massive success of YouTube vlogs would be another great example.


I like small games. They force an emphasis on game design.

How about restricting yourself to QR code sized games? The maximum size of a QR code is 2,953 bytes. You may want to use "H" error correction level instead which can recover 30% of errors.


Here’s a slightly more readable version of the FPS one:

https://gist.github.com/alpn/cd16f96034c5f71f053b714ad032eaf...


In the post the author mentions the fps game. Anyone have insight into the mvaddnwstr function used? I can't seem to find the library it's included in yet it works, just complains about implicit declaration!


These can be encoded as QR codes, which would make it much easier to read and run the games


A pity that it uses windows.h API.


It does work with wine using the pre-compiled version and `wineconsole`:

    curl https://www.dropbox.com/s/rmagppsuhwms28k/TinySki.exe -OL
    wineconsole TinySki.exe


I feel like using MFC would have been a better choice here for future portability.


Hilarious game. I actually like this a lot.




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