DevLog Watch: Trees, Religions, Spaceships

Games are varied, no?

GIFs aren’t only the internet’s favourite medium for sharing slapstick animals. They’re also a tool for democratising promotion and marketing. Can’t afford the time or money necessary to edit together a slick trailer? Don’t worry, a three-second GIF may better convey what’s smart, cool and interesting about your game.

Or if your game doesn’t have animation just write really long posts detailing the making of it anyway. Whatever. DEVLOG WATCH GO.

How To Be A Tree

I’m not sure two images could better sell the appeal of a game than these. How To Be A Tree. It’s a platform game about leaping across gaps, squeezing down holes and arboreal mincing. It looks a little like Incredipede, without the awkwardness of building your own creature. There’s a bunch more GIFs through at the link, each one funny and brilliant.

Ultima Ratio Regum

ANSI, not ASCII, which means it can be quite lovely to look at.

I’ve written about the ANSI, procedurally generated 4X/roguelike before, but designer and programmer Mark Johnson updates the game’s blog regularly with news of what he’s working on. Most recently, that’s been religions and cults.

I’ve pretty much finished all the work on religions. These take three forms – monotheistic, polytheistic, and “spirits”, which is the under-the-hood classification for animist/shamanistic beliefs, ancestor worship, and so forth. Hunter-gatherer civilizations are highly biased towards the third category whilst feudal civilizations have a roughly equal chance of producing monotheistic and polytheistic religions. Nomadic civilizations, meanwhile, never have official state religions – made up as they are by peoples from a wide range of places, and given their fluidity as civilizations whose people are generally in near-constant transit, I decided it would be more interesting if they were to often serve as “hubs” where large numbers of religions might be represented, as opposed to their feudal equivalents who may be more restrictive in the religions they’ll allow.

VIDEOGAMES. And worth a look.


In the signature for each post about Interstellaria, there sits this handy description: “SHIP/CREW MANAGEMENT, EXPLORATION, METROIDVANIA.” I like it when developers make my job easy.

I also like it when space games look like this:

Pale blues ships. Metal grey interfaces. The last year has spawned returns or spiritual successors to Elite and to Wing Commander, but I can’t help but wonder when we’ll see a successor to the likes of Captain Blood. Space as a source of chill weirdness.

I’m not sure Interstellaria is that game – its platforming Metroidvania planet surfaces suggests otherwise, but for the art, I’m onboard.

There’s sixteen pages of development updates and GIFs, as ever, on TIGSource.

From the archive

In a time before Kickstarter, in a world before blogs, there was the finger protocol and .plan files. What ancient wisdom can we pull from this archive of developer musings from near the turn of the millenium?

Heretic II. Uh, thanks guys.

Heretic, Hexen and Hecatomb would have been the artistically “right” way to preserve the scope and story of the Trilogy of the Serpent Riders. After i left, Hecatomb became Hexen II and series integrity went out the window.

The sentence that was originally here was rewritten about 10 times because i’m trying to be Politically Correct in stating my feelings for how the whole series lost its focus and instead is just using its established brandname to sell copies.

Writes John Romero, March 26th 1998, about Heretic II being called Heretic II. Which is a little negative, so skip ahead to December 10th, 1999.

It was six short years ago, down to the hour. I remember staying up the last 30 hours doing exhaustive testing before Jay Wilbur uploaded the shareware version of DOOM to the University of Wisconsin’s FTP site. We couldn’t get in — too many people were sitting on the site, waiting for our upload. The target directory was full of bogus files with names like “” and “”, but finally we got the sysop to up the connect limit to 250 and we barely got in. After that upload, things changed.

I remember the crazy lockup bug we had the day before — if DOOM sat running for too long, it would just lock up. Turned out to be a value that was being incremented by the 140-tic-per-second timer function that was wrapping around (it takes a very long time for a LONG to wrap, even at 140-tics-per-second, but this one was uninitialized so it took even less time). So, we finished it up and sent it out, just knowing everyone would have a lot of fun with it. Happy Birthday, DOOM.


And that’s the third DevLog Watch column done. You’ve convinced me; this will now be a regular.

Many of the games already featured in this column appeared because their developers dropped me a line. A wise move. Are you making a game? More importantly, are you blogging about the creation of that game? GIFs or not, if you’re explaining what you’re making, mail me a link and maybe I’ll cover it.


  1. Gap Gen says:

    Thanks for linking to the URR blog; sounds really interesting (I’ve seen the project on Twitter before, but only the images). I’m fascinated by how ideas and social structures propagate and evolve, so something that implements this in a game sounds great (disappointed that so few games have played with these ideas with any real depth). I love the idea of setting up nomadic civilisations that flow through other nation’s borders acting as conduits of information and culture.

    Not 100% sold on the ASCII (or ANSI whatever) art, but then I suppose it’s an easy style that allows focussing on the ideas.

  2. leeder krenon says:

    the spiritual successor to Captain Blood is Mirror Moon.

  3. Gap Gen says:

    I also love the concept of How To Be A Tree.

  4. MrThingy says:

    GIF me a break, I’m not made of bandwidth… D:

  5. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    I have never wanted to play as a tree more than now in my entire life.

  6. Lobotomist says:

    Hey. Can anyone explain me the recent explosion of animGIF usage ?
    Last I checked (and i do check it alot since i am graphic designer) GIFs were going way of the dodo, together with myspace and netscape. With their massive file size and 8 bit color, they were totaly stuck in 1990s. In fact the next logical step animPNG never happened. And anim gif editors of any quality started to be even more obscure.

    So what happened. Where is this new trend coming from. And why ?

    • bill says:

      I’m not sure. Web designers stopped using animated gifs about a decade ago because they were annoying and massive. Obviously no one at RPS has heard of the term Page Weight.

      But I vaguely remember reading that the word GIF had been chosen as word of the year last year… i think it’s probably to do with teens on their smartphones discovering them and thinking they are something new.

      Maybe in a few years they’ll discover Rubik’s Cubes and then that’ll become word of the year a few decades too late as well.

      I’m seriously considering an adblock fliter to block all gifs on RPS…

    • Gap Gen says:

      I’d blame poor support for better formats from browsers. GIF’s one advantage is that most browsers can display them, whereas I think animpng is more limited in support. I like having small embedded animations showing what a game looks like in motion without opening a youtube video, though.

      • LionsPhil says:

        APNG is dead in the water. Opera dabbled with but ultimately removed it. MNG is even deader because even Firefox dropped it. <video> is still pretty heavyweight. Stunts with JavaScript are just plain evil and you have to be seriously smoking something to consider than an ‘image format’.

        So that’s why. Welcome to Computing; everything’s broken.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      In Game Dev at least, you can use an animated gif in your Screenshot Saturday or Greenlight submission and you can’t use a video.

    • Sam says:

      GIFs were kept alive on imageboards, like a smouldering subterranean fire.
      Recently they reached the tinder-dry forest of Tumblr, and now we’re all burning alive.
      In this analogy the proliferation of broadband takes the role of an extremely dry summer.
      And probably something about the rise of “content creators” as separate from more technically minded webmasters. Funding cuts to Smokey Bear?

      Not sure how usable it is within a CMS, but there’s link to which can replace GIFs with far more efficient and similarly easy to view embedded video.

  7. Frank says:

    Good stuff. Hey Graham, you didn’t tag the first entry with “DevLog Watch”: link to

  8. Tei says:

    That tree game looks instaclassic to me. But theres a high risk with indie games and physic puzzles.. Its easy to make these puzzles too easy or too hard. Really, indie games should stay away from physic puzzles. But I am happy to see these gifs, are a amazing idea.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Phasma Felis says:

    The Heretic series was an early example of “devs can’t count or remember names.” Remember those glorious days when the third game in a series was labeled “3”? Raven didn’t cotton to that. Here’s the series as it stands:

    *Hexen: Beyond Heretic
    *Hexen II
    *Heretic II

    That’s right, the third and fourth games both have a “2” on the end. The second game doesn’t. Great job guys!

    Of course it wasn’t as bad as the Metaltech series. I mean Earthsiege. I mean Starsiege. I mean…

    *Metaltech: Battledrome
    *Metaltech: Earthsiege
    *Earthsiege 2
    *Starsiege: Tribes
    *Tribes 2

    Now! Who’s up for some Metaltech: Starsiege: Tribes: Ascend?

    • zeekthegeek says:

      I was always fond of:
      Star Wars: Dark Forces
      Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
      Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
      Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
      Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

  10. SystemiK says:

    My first thought when I saw that tree was Eufloria.