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The Sunday Papers

Sundays! Sundays are for refreshed victory. On Sundays we can consolidate and peer into the week ahead. Will it be better than last week? Damn straight. Let’s prepare ourselves with some written edification for mind and soul. Internet, you are a strong.

  • The Creators Project talk to the man behind mod de jour The Stanley Parable: “I love any game that rattles my expectations a bit, so I’ve been equally delighted with Counterstrike and with Dear Esther. But a mod is just a tool, you can use it however you want, and if you go on ModDB, most of the mods there are sci-fi/history actions games. Even though modding can be a wellspring of innovation and creativity, it’s just as easy to use it to make something that looks identical to everything else. The more open your platform is, the more imitators you get. As far as actual success goes, I think it has far more to do with your intentions than with the openness of your platform. Case in point: i released a game that’s actually kind of difficult to install, on a limited number of platforms, with zero marketing and zero details available about the game, and it was downloaded 70,000 times in a week. That speaks to my desire to do something crazy and unexpected. If your intentions are just to imitate the formula, than no amount of technological liberation will help. But I’m kind of an anomaly here, so what do I know?”
  • Kirk Hamilton and Leigh Alexander are writing a series of letters to each other detailing their experiences playing the original Deus Ex. Kirk has played it before, because he’s a big old nerd, but Leigh hasn’t, so she’s seeing the ancient masterpiece through contemporary eyes. Here’s a bit of what gets said: “I mean, everyone in this game has a trenchcoat. And doesn’t have a neck. The music is the kind of thing I’d expect to hear someone make as a joke at the expense of “dark, futuristic” video games. And the graphics! Good god damn, is this game ugly. People are discussing things I haven’t yet learned to care about, looking like male sex dolls with their pupil-less eyes and gawping fish-lips. In the opening sequence, when they zoomed into that one dude’s reddish, pointille eye, I literally vocalized my laughter.” Old men.
  • Tap-repeatedly have a guest editorial from Amanda Lange on “the generation gap”. It explodes across a bunch of different issues, but is followed by a decent discussion over whether younger gamers are missing out on deeper mechanics because of the drive toward “accessibility” that games current face. Here’s one of the comments: “However… if young gamers *are* missing out on the deeper experiences then it’s part of a much wider problem that is little to do with the mechanics of gaming. The widespread integration of auto-distraction technology into every part of life. Our right to empty, sedate time has been signed away on silicon. We lose our concentration one tweet, one mail and one ad at a time. No wonder there are so many players attracted to Press X to Complete Game. It’s a symptom and not a cause.” Yeah, stupid dumbed-down culture! Dwarf Fortress should be taught in schools!
  • Gamespy look at the virtual item-selling business, and it throws up this quote from EA’s Frank Gibeau: “PC retail may be a big problem, but PC downloads are awesome. The margins are much better and we don’t have any rules in terms of first-party approvals. From our perspective, it’s an extremely healthy platform. It’s totally conceivable that it will become our biggest platform.”
  • BnB Gaming have spent some time talking about isometric RPGs and their power over more modern camera-tastic RPG: “My escape is to a static place, to a place where only my imagination moves. The scene pauses. Should I shoot the Deathclaw in the head, hoping to kill it quickly? Or in the leg to slow it down? Should I waste valuable time equipping a more powerful gun? Or should I gobble down all these drugs I’m carrying around and hope for the best? And suddenly I am away from the first-person experience, thinking about my situation without seeing it. I know that the Deathclaw is still ‘out there’ and I still feel in danger. While perusing my inventory, I am more alone with my fear of Deathclaws than with the fully realised, visible Deathclaw. So am I closer to my character, or further away?”
  • The Armchair Empire have written An Open Letter To Mike Morhaime. It argues that Diablo III’s always-on, real-money trading model will hurt Blizzard because of how PC gamers will react: “The days of The Lost Vikings and Blackthorne are long gone. The PC is the only platform you have invested in, whether that’s Windows or Mac, and there is no other place to go. For better or worse, you’ve tied yourself to a single platform, and forcing this scheme onto the community without the benefit of alternate platforms will not result in millions of fans falling in line like good little sheep to be fleeced. You may get some, but nowhere near what you were expecting. The rest will either forsake the game, and Blizzard by extension, or they will turn pirate.” Not sure I agree with this. I think a minority will vote with their wallets, but Blizzard will still print money. It’s worth protesting, because it’s always worth fighting for what we believe in, but Blizzard are inevitably going to win this battle. No amount of rehashing the grumbles will change that.
  • This video over at PC Perspective has John Carmack’s take on the Unlimited Detail thing, as well as some thoughts about ray-tracing as the future of rendering: “I am confident in saying now that ray tracing of some form will eventually win because there are too many things that we’ve suffered with rasterization for, especially for shadows and environment mapping. We live with hacks that ray tracing can let us do much better. For years I was thinking that traditional analytical ray tracing intersecting with an analytic primitive couldn’t possibly be the right solution, and it would have to be something like voxels or metaballs or something. I’m less certain of that now because the analytic tracing is closer than I thought it would be. I think it’s an interesting battle between potentially ray tracing into dense polygonal geometry versus ray tracing into voxels and things like that.”
  • Hogrocket’s Pete Collier talks about what he believes developers need to think about to make a good game: “Bounceability – This denotes the positive feeling players get at the end of a game where they strongly feel they can do much better next time they play. This is often combined with immediately wanting to play again and is tied very closely with the qualities of addictiveness. Evoking this from a player is a very strong sign of an awesome game. Not only does the player feel like they’ve learned from the experience but critically they also feel it is instantly actionable.”
  • Here’s a piece on Ed Macmillan’s The Binding Of Isaac: “Religion is but one of many inspirations for Isaac. “Thematically most of the inspiration comes from the bible, christian extremist propaganda from the 80s, Jack Chick comics and books my wife had been reading about kids held captive in basements.” Then, there’s the art, which Edmund says he’s “probably pulling a lot from stuff like Ren and Stimpy and other cartoons and comics from [his] childhood”.”
  • Speaking of religion, here’s Michael Johnson on God Games: ” I want to be my own God, I want to create a society in my image, that learns and adapts to my whims and creates its own homage to me. Some games have explored these ideas to some extent such as Black and White, with pet-like avatars who adapt according to our behaviour, becoming a cruel enforcer or benevolent guardian on our behalf according to the way we treat them. But for me that’s not enough.”
  • Futurismic on emergent narrative in games and films: “Aside from the fact that many people do manage to play their way through Dwarf Fortress, what is most exciting about the game is the quality of the stories that it seems to generate… All of these contain stories that have emerged entirely organically from the Dwarf Fortress experience: stories that exist without cut-scenes, without stilted dialogue developed by third-rate voice actors and without code monkeys pretending to be Fellini. Not only do these narratives emerge naturally from play, they emerge beautifully formed and filled with tragedy, comedy and the sparkle of verisimilitude that systematically seems to evade the likes of Hideo Kojima.” A-fucking-men.
  • That Jim Rossignol guy blogs about the weird feeling of working on a game about a ruined city in a week where angry people seemed intent on ruining theirs.
  • A phenomenon that has become rarer as the internet has become more mainstream is the thing where you go to a website and realise it is completely mad. This grading of national flags felt like the old days of the internet somehow. What. Why?

Music this week is Battles’ My Machines featuring Gary Numan, the physical copies of which were destroyed in a fire caused by the riots. Hopefully it’ll do okay digitally and not hurt the band or the label too much. And did I link to Jim Guthrie’s stuff before? Maybe, but anyway, people have been tweeting it again.

As ever, you can email me or twittle me links during the week.

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Jim Rossignol

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