The Dink Network

Recondite Twenty-Eight: The Sixth Day

Recondite was an article that I used to write on The Dink Network to capture whatever random thoughts I had at the time. If my thoughts were butterflies, Recondite was an old man with a net and a penchant for entomological taxidermy. It eventually evolved into a pseudo-blog / status update for many things about The Dink Network that simply didn't fit into a forum message or a stand-alone news post.

It has been just over Ten Years since Recondite Twenty-Seven, and I can't quite comprehend that. Ten Years is a Long Time. That's twice as long as Bill Szczytko spent working on Quest for Dorinthia v2.5!

So read on, fellow Dinkers, and see what this edition entails.

Six Days Straight

Today is the sixth consecutive day that news has been posted on The Dink Network. This has not happened since... September 1998. I had updated redink1's Smallnet for 8 days in a row back then.

The Web

I am thrilled that Dink Smallwood HD and FreeDink are running successfully within web browsers. Not only does this lower the barrier of entry (you can start playing a D-Mod in two clicks), but I'm hopeful that this also means that Dink and D-Mods can be playable years from now.

Browser-based javascript/wasm games will almost assuredly continue to work for many many years, while I'm honestly not sure what operating system my computer or my phone will use five years from now. The Web handily won the platform wars, and now Dink is part of that.

From my view, the Web also trumps the gaming-specific platforms that some members of our community has been wishing Dink would be on (such as Steam or GOG). Now, playing Dink is a click away, and we just need to make it discoverable for those who might be interested.

Community D-Mod Jam

Sometime later this year, I am hoping to arrange a ludum-dare-ish game jam for a community D-Mod. The goal would be to schedule a 48 hour window to work on a D-Mod... but what if we all worked on the same D-Mod at the same time, and at the end we have a single D-Mod that everyone can play? We could coordinate through discord and twitch, and maybe use something like github to share the map and source code files.

Someone with no programming experience could suggest a joke in a discord chat room that we could include, players could beta test the in-work D-Mod on the fly in their browsers, three map designer could add decoration to map screens, and a programmer could add something crazy like a chess mini game.

This isn't exactly trivial. We'd need to come up with a few rules (for example, PG-13, no custom graphics, no custom hard.dat customizations, resolve how to handle conflicts, etc).

And, more importantly, we don't really have the right map editor to support something like this right now. Creating/merging script files is pretty easy with things like github, but I'm not sure how we'd merge changes to a map file. It'd be nice if we had a cross-platform solution, and it wasn't just a modified version of Windinkedit.

The D-Mod Improvement Project

Starting with Dink Smallwood v1.08, we've had various compatibility issues between the Dink engine and D-Mods. v1.08 added quite a lot of new features (yay), and unfortunately some of these features broke existing functionality (boo). FreeDink fixed quite a few things, and even supported a v1.07 compatibility mode. And Dink Smallwood HD has started fixing issues as well (after initially breaking a fair bit).

But, nobody has really played through most D-Mods most platforms to ensure that everything works as expected. I think this limits the appeal of playing D-Mods in general; do you use FreeDink? DinkHD? If you get stuck in a way that is simply not possible to get around, you probably don't want to play more D-Mods.
So, the idea of this hypothetical 'D-Mod Improvement Project' would be to select a well regarded D-Mod (like Lyna's Story or Malachi the Jerk), and encourage everyone in the community to play it and ensure that it works on as many platforms as possible.

If anyone reports any issues, community members (or, the original author, if they are still around) would make fixes to whatever would need to be fixed, whether that was Dink Smallwood HD, FreeDink, or the D-Mod itself. The goal would be to make the D-Mod work as it was intended (fixing gameplay dead-ends, crashes, hardness errors, and maybe even spelling and depth dot errors). We wouldn't be adding brand-new graphics, fixing plot holes, or making them 'better' (like Ted Shutes had done for a few D-Mods). We'd just be making it possible to complete them.

Then, when we finished one D-Mod, we'd move onto the next. And, in 40 years, we'd finally fix Goblin Castle.

The Future

I joined this community back in June of 1998, and I've been hearing that 'Dink Smallwood is dying' since around August 1998.

I'm not sure if either of the crazy ideas I mentioned above will become reality, or if they'll even be remotely successful. Regardless of any success or failure, this community will prevail because it has a good heart. We'll continue to recruit the odd duck here-and-there. They'll check out the chat room or browse through the forum and think "hey, this place is pretty weird, but nice".

You are all awesome.