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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for realising that I finally have to take over from Gillen, making a cup of tea, and setting about doing some link-dredging in the depths of the internet. Just in case you were wondering, there will be no failure in the new regime, but simply a fresh set of esoteric interests and off-topic blathering. Here we go:

  • GDC Online has been taking place in Austin this week, and there’s been plenty of interesting material emerging from its sessions. One of these was Richard Bartle’s discussion of the creation of the original online RPG, MUD. It was, apparently, a reaction to the British class system. Strong stuff. Particularly when people chose to interpret that as the reason MMOs have levels in. (I’d say that was more to do with D&D.) But there are nevertheless some other good quotes in there, too, particularly about how game designers should be saying something with their work. Which is a sentiment which links to…
  • Something I linked to earlier in the week: Ian Bogost’s analysis of the Medal Honor Taliban issue and its implications for free speech. So good I am linking it twice. Read it.
  • Clint Hocking has been regularly blogging of late – LucasArts obviously not keeping him busy enough, eh? – and he’s turned his eye to convergence. I was a little sceptical of the buzzwording of his first post, but the observations about fashion games in the second post are enough to make me intrigued to see where he’s going with this.
  • Another person whose current direction intrigues me is Eskil Steenberg. He recently posted a rather gloomy discussion of the state of gaming, based on his own experiences with developing his co-operative action/builder, Love. An interesting and slightly worrying read.
  • Joel Goodwin writes about the “feedback” developers often have to choke down from the gaming community, over on Resolution. Goodwin really went to town on this, and there are some grand quotes in there, such as this from Gabe Newell, who observes that much online feedback starts out the abusive, noisy end of the scale because gamers assume their opinion will be drowned out, or ignored: “People tend to assume that there is a huge filter and at best a tenuous connection. They start by turning their volume to 11. Once they realize that there is actually someone on the other end of the email, phone, forum, whatever, they don’t feel the need to shout. If you politely listen to people, they will politely talk to you.”
  • And here’s one for the designers: Apple and HP veteran Don Norman talking about “design without designers.” He touches on one of the issues that appears more and more frequently in my writing about development: the role of automation. It’s going to be radically important across all sectors of designer, says Norman: “Automated data-driven processes will slowly make more and more inroads into the space now occupied by human designers. New approaches to computer-generated creativity such as genetic algorithms, knowledge-intensive systems, and others will start taking over the creative aspect of design.” But there’s more to it than that, so go have a read.
  • Relatedly – and I should probably start as I mean to go, so I am getting to the pimping – my chum Tom Betts has been messing around with procedural terrain generation over the summer, and has turned his attention to working in Unity over the past few weeks. That’s great news for me, because he’s one of my development partners in a new indie games outfit, Big Robot. We’re going to be doing some development blogging over here. Keep an eye on that for more updates.
  • London design wizards BERG have been looking at games that use multiple screens. Tom Armitage blogs some of their findings. I hadn’t realised this: “The strategy game Supreme Commander allows players to use a second monitor for a zoomed-out tactical map. Rather than reducing the map to the corner of the screen (as many strategy games do), or forcing the player to constantly zoom in and out, the second screen provides a permanent context for what’s going on the primary screen.”
  • Recently-announced THQ associate Guillermo Del Toro talks videogames. (Video link.)
  • Douglas Copeland’s guide to the next ten years. Scary. Gloomy. Probably worth accepting so that we can just get on with things.
  • And finally, just in case you’re missing the enigmatic grammar of the original Sunday Papers editor, here he is being interviewed about the X-Men on io9. (Which itself links to this interview with exoplanet-discoverer Steve Vogt. Blimey.)

Anyway. I’m off to listen to painfully credible pop music and make plans for my inevitable career in international celebrity. More soon!

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Jim Rossignol

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