Dev update for the new (old-school animated cursors, iFrames, and more!)

I’ve been sharing this a lot on Twitter, but thought I should finally make an actual proper update with what I’m working on right now… including some of the ideas going into it!

I’ve been working on re-designing (completely re-doing) (the web version, not the desktop one).
I guess you could call it a reboot?

It’s exciting for me because I feel like the 2013 version has always been a bit of a placeholder that I kinda kept building on with the idea that “Ok, I’ll get to this later…” and “later” never came.
Although I’m proud of it, there’s parts of it that have slowly been falling to digital deterioration.
Broken links. Directories that were once open now locked… No more Flash Player… some things just don’t run… Isn’t the way virtual things decay interesting? They just glitch and error. Yes… such melancholy.

Links to the AppStore obviously don’t work anymore because all the mobile apps are gone. It was WAY to hard to keep them supported on the AppStore because Apple’s approval (disapproval?) process kept singling out odd things about them and I had too much trouble keeping up with that and the constant changes. Mobile app development is probably one of the most unpleasant and tedious platforms to try to exist on. Everything has to be approved, including objective things like aesthetic and theme.

I suppose I’ve been thinking about this a lot while building the new site. With the way apps on the phone don’t, and just can’t, be preserved how will that history look? Will we remember any of it even? Will we have nostalgia for certain parts of games on the phone? Although Flash is not exactly going to get properly preserved before the December 2020 death date, we still have nostalgia for Flash because Flash kind of belonged to “the people”. Anyone could participate in making online Flash stuff. The bar was so low. It was easy, and it “just worked”. So I think that’s why it left such a mark on all of us. Not everyone can participate in making stuff for these storefronts, and with the way the web is restricted on mobile, it’s hard for “just anyone” to even exist on that platform. It’s an interesting thought. The more accessible a technology and platform is to people, the more of an impact it has. I kind of view forced exclusivity as poison in a lot of ways.

I’m saying this because I’ve been putting together a talk about the history of Flash (mostly about “The Flash Website”, not games because the website use is hardly talked about but was so prevalent).
I’m drawing a strong connection between this current drama between Epic and Apple, where Apple threatened to remove all support for the Unreal Engine
and this historic, but mostly forgotten, example where Apple did the very same to Flash. At one point Apple didn’t allow ANY thing created in non-Apple tools to exist on the iPhone. Flash was threatening the control over the AppStore, especially because it ran in the browser and was too strong of a contender against Apps. Apple removed support for the player from their browser. Adobe sued them for monopolizing their platform and to allow non-Apple tech on the AppStore, so that things built in AIR and PhoneGap are allowed… That’s a very rough summary of a lot of drama. It was around this time that Steve Jobs fired back with the “Thoughts on Flash” article.
Since Flash was such a contender in so many fields, it started something of a PR (propaganda) war against the player. A lot of the “Flash is a security risk” was incorrect or just blown out of proportion. I’ll actually be posting my talk about this. It goes over all this in better detail, but I think it’s really interesting what all this constant “big player power drama” means for smaller devs. That shrinking freedom to be allowed access to the web, to be allowed to make stuff that can run on a desktop, and how it’s constantly threatened by these larger power grabs.

I keep saying it but I really do think that technology is a democracy that we have to fight for. If we lose our freedom to make stuff, and it really feels like that when you look at the direction that most of the web has been taking, we are forced to just consume content. We’re no longer participants, we’re just a resource (for consumption, attention, clicks…). It’s kind of like streamlining our creative desires. We can exist in these spaces, but only on certain terms. For example, look at how draconian the AppStore is for creators. Aside from expensive, it’s arbitrarily restrictive. I don’t know of anyone that really ENJOYS working with Apple’s rules, but we where forced to swallow it because if you disagree then Apple just won’t approve your work.
It’s interesting when you look at the rules that need to be followed in order to exist in a space, and how arbitrary it makes everything in that space.

So ok… I guess all that was a tangent.

For the new I’m making what basically is a website-as-game. The entire thing is DOM based, built as a website, no canvas, BUT I’m trying to find ways that are native to websites in order to design a game.
One thing I was exploring is using CSS’s cursor:url to make an animated playable avatar. Javascript updates the cursor:url and turns it into an animation.
Here’s an example:

I have it open source on github, and you can visit a demo here.

The way that kind of “blew up” humors me because it shows how much people actually want silly, playful, and experimental things on their websites. Some humanizing aspect that breaks out of the monotonous look that websites have become. We like different and customized. Somehow people will always gravitate to that.

I think using the cursor is interesting for the larger part of UI history “The Computer Cursor” falls under.
Windows XP, and older, had these wonderful animated cursors. You could customize the cursor. For example the Wagtail or Dinosaur cursor. This website has a great collection of them.

I think that’s interesting because the cursor basically is YOU. When you interact with a UI, the cursor is the player sprite. We’re very used to looking at the cursor by its standard pointer by now, but (when it was allowed) people really went all out in expressing their virtual self with custom cursors. The fact that the animatable ones were so desirable is interesting too.
When Flash websites where big, people where doing all sorts of interesting and wonderful cursors. The player had a feature where you could hide the mouse and replace it with your own… A lot of animated, weird, wacky ways of presenting a cursor sometimes mixed with Javascript. Maybe you can judge the quality of experimentation on a platform by what it allows you to do with the cursor. Yes, that’s it! I figured it out just now.

So that’s kind of a thing I’m looking at to make “playing” in a website interesting.

There’s a lot to CSS that ends up being really interesting if you’re treating a website as a game. CSS is really good at tiling things, and that’s fun to work with when you’re building an environment. Video games are all about those tiles xD

The website opens with the classic welcoming page, with CyberMonkey…

Once the intro is done playing, you’re left on this haunted and deteriorating desktop…

This is the same desktop as the one hidden in “Everything is going to be OK”, so there’s some continuity there.
Every element on it will be interactive. I hope people get surprised and delighted that “haha it let me do that!”. What I like about this format is that I can play around a lot with the theme of having a desktop in the browser that also has a browser in it, and break out or in between the two.

For example, there was this quirk with iFrames way back in geocities when people just discovered using iFrames.
They where everywhere, and using them was totally out of control sometimes. You could get “stuck” in an iFrame (with the new site you’re in, now showing inside that iFrame, inside the site you are)… like if you hold two mirrors in front of eachother. Sometimes you kept getting stuck in an iFrame, inside of an iFrame, inside of another… Then people had buttons on the site saying “If you’re stuck in someone else’s iFrame, click here!”, and that broke you out of all that.
So I think that’s going to be fun to do here between “fake desktop” and browser.

I’ve put off doing this hoping that there would be some open source substitute to the Flash player coming out before the kill date. Sadly no. I don’t think that’s going to happen for quite some time.
Most of them that are out there have spotty support. The most promising that I was watching was CheerpX for Flash but even that seems geared more toward enterprise software and larger companies (not just the everyday small indie). Which I find interesting. Flash was so accessible to everyone. Its remains now are walled off to larger people that can afford elaborate licensing deals.
We should learn from Flash. There’s so much to unpack with how this technology died.

So… since that’s the case I’ll be releasing all games as standalone. You’ll have to play a silly quest to find them. Beg the gods of Tetrageddon to allow you access… or something along those lines.

I think maybe the work I did with the ARG-like illustrates a basic concept of the direction is taking.

That’s about all in terms of an update for Tetrageddon. If you like how any of this sounds, maybe buy one of my games on itch? I’m on Ko-Fi too.

In other news…
The Electric Zine Maker won the Innovation in Interaction Award at IndieCade. You can see a recording of the award show here on Twitch.

I’m honored. It’s my third time winning the Innovation in Interaction Award at IndieCade. “Everything is going to be OK” and Cyberpet Graveyard both won Interaction too!
That’s a big deal to me because I feel tremendously privileged just to have gotten this far and to have gotten lucky enough that I could even finish these projects. It’s a lot of work, and just being here is a blessing.
I was going through a lot, especially this piece of hell, and thought that me fighting with all this would tank the Electric Zine Maker. I have not been able to market it, or properly promote it. It’s been huge that people’s love for it have done that instead. Rock Paper Shotgun mentioned it a few times, and then IndieCade recognizing it has done a lot.
So, like I said, I don’t take any of this for granted. Any amount of success can be credited to a lot of other factors that don’t have anything to do with just one person. It’s an accumulated effort from a lot of people, and I’m touched that the Electric Zine Maker has meant enough to others to have gotten as far as it did.

There’s more being planned for the Electric Zine Maker as well. I brought some of that up in previous devlogs. Like re-doing a lot of the UI (since it grew so much), and adding more templates, and very new features.

Well… that’s about all. Lol maybe play the Flash games on while you still can! xD