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The Sunday Papers

Oof, fuzzybrained Sunday morning syndrome. You’ll have to forgive my slowness today, because this particular Sunday is for being slow. Fortunately that can easily be offset by the quick wits of the internet, some of which I have compiled below for your continued erudition.

  • Link of the week is the New York Times on Dwarf Fortress, which I am not sure whether it’s worth me linking to since EVERYONE IN THE WORLD already sent me the link. But anyway, it’s a big deal and it says stuff like this: “Many simulation games offer players a bag of building blocks, but few dangle a bag as deep, or blocks as small and intricately interlocking, as Dwarf Fortress. Beneath the game’s rudimentary facade is a dizzying array of moving parts, algorithms that model everything from dwarves’ personalities (some are depressive; many appreciate art) to the climate and economic patterns of the simulated world. The story of a fortress’s rise and fall isn’t scripted beforehand — in most games narratives progress along an essentially set path — but, rather, generated on the fly by a multitude of variables. The brothers themselves are often startled by what their game spits out. “We didn’t know that carp were going to eat dwarves,” Zach says. “But we’d written them as carnivorous and roughly the same size as dwarves, so that just happened, and it was great.””
  • Industry Gamers have Epic’s Mike Capps saying that they haven’t been giving Unreal “the attention it deserves”. Could that be the sound of a new Unreal game on the horizon?
  • Tom Chick has a new strategy gaming column over at GameSpy. He explains the feeling among certain big companies that strategy gaming is not contemporary. What happened, Tom? “Well, the main thing that happened is that E3 isn’t a barometer for anything other than what’s showing at E3. And the other thing that happened is nothing at all, because I still believe we’re in a golden age of strategy gaming — so long as you don’t measure golden ages by advertising dollars or comments from higher-ups at 2K. The genre is alive, well, thriving, and more commercially viable than ever, and not just because you people are buying downloadable Vikings and whatnot for the brain-dead Civilization V. I can think of some far better reasons why it’s a great time to be the sort of person who would read a column on strategy games.” And then he makes a list. It’s a good list. I wish I had written it.
  • Ethan Gilsdorf writes a lot of good stuff about gaming in general, although I do understand why some people dislike the timbre of his book. Here he is writing about D&D for Salon. It’s a bit of a Gaming Made Me: “I now see it was no accident that the year I found D&D, or it found me, coincided with my mother’s return from the hospital. It took courage for a teenage boy to deal with the Momster — more courage than I could muster at the time. I couldn’t face down the creature that plagued my own house. But playing D&D let me act out imaginary, possibly symbolic battles instead, and distracted me from the prospect of facing the real ones waged within my family’s four walls. In the D&D playscape, I learned to be confident and decisive, and feel powerful.”
  • Richard’s Saturday Crapshoot remains one of the internet’s current best fixtures.
  • More Metacritic observations, this time via Mr Abbott: “The data suggests that if you’re developing a AAA game, you’re probably headed for a B+, an A- if you’re lucky, or a plain old B if you’re not. Don’t worry about a C. That just won’t happen. Unless your name is Duke.” Which is something I have been saying a lot recently: AAA games are so focus-tested into oblivion that mainstream games reviewers are stuck in the 8/10 band for most of their existence. It must be refreshing to get some genuine crap to review. Related: it’s been over a year since I last put a number at the end of a piece of writing about a game, and it feels good.
  • Eurogamer are explaining How To Be A Pro Gamer. My top tip: be young, and have a lot of time.
  • Ars Technica have explained why they are increasing their commitment to PC gaming coverage: “The point is, PC gaming should always have a strong focus here, and today we’re pleased to say that we’re strengthening it. It’s the right time!” Oh yeah, well we are going to DOUBLE COMMIT ourselves! Beat that, Ars! BRING IT ON.
  • Werner Herzog is one of my heroes. He’s at Comic-Con, for some reason. This paragraph is so perfectly Herzogian: “Mr. Herzog, meanwhile, was absorbing the Breughel-like atmospherics, while taking a break from his own next project with Mr. Nelson, a death row documentary. It is so intense, he said, it has caused him to start smoking again. “Not a lot, just sometimes,” said Mr. Herzog. “I can only work on this for five hours at a time. I’m usually an eight-hour guy.””
  • Here’s a write-up of TIGJam UK 5, which sounds like a fine time for all involved.
  • Minecraft Middle-Earth is mental.
  • Stewart Lee’s What I really think about Michael McIntyre is funny and interesting, but only if you know who Michael McIntyre is, I suspect. (Or follow British comedy and newspaper politics at least as superficially as I do.)
  • Appropos of nothing, this old trailer of Kingdom Under Fire 2 has me wishing there was more epic melee in gaming.

No music this week, but instead Robots Of Brixton, which some of you will already have seen, but is proof that I have had my head under a heavy rock for the past month.

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Jim Rossignol

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