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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for planning the conquest of central Europe. It doesn’t all have to be violence, of course. I am sure some of those Kingdoms will give way to diplomacy. Anyway, all that stuff is for the afternoon, right now we have to plan the conquest of a week’s worth of videogame writings. Let’s see what’s ripe for plunder.

  • Tom Francis writes about the exquisite Proteus: “Even once most of your curiosity is satisfied, your exploration is still motivated by music. It’s quiet at night, so I headed to the place that was most frenetic by day: the trees. Their tone and mood is different with the moon out, and it gave my song a new texture. I found an unusual creature and chased it. Each time it ran from me, its movement struck a new cord, one which tinkled on as long as I followed in its wake. It led me out of the trees, over a mountain, through the desert, and finally leapt into the sea. Its thread faded from the music, and as I watched the water glint, I realised the sun was coming up.”
  • This makes for fascinating reading: Turning down Zynga: Why I left after the $210M Omgpop buy: “I exhort game developers: don’t join a company whose values are opposed to your own. Values aren’t just for idealists — they matter. If a company’s practices make you uncomfortable, pay attention to your instincts and be true to them.” Even more interesting was this tweet from the Omgpop CEO.
  • Nathan Grayson writes about Jade Empire over on Eurogamer: “It was, in a nutshell, one of those YouTube videos where a kid thinks he can pull off some crazy triple-spinning kick, only to fall flat on his face. Sky high ambition minus the required know-how. But it makes sense, given that, for BioWare, the game represented a vision-obscuring downpour of firsts: first original IP since Baldur’s Gate, first truly console-focused release, and first ‘streamlined’ combat system – among others. For better or worse, Jade Empire ended up becoming the mid-point in BioWare’s journey from clumsy yet lovable nerd to the popular kid everybody loves to hate. It definitely wasn’t another KOTOR or Baldur’s Gate, but it was still miles away from the polished cinematic antics of Dragon Age 2 or Mass Effect.”
  • How The Smithsonian Screwed Up Its Video Game Exhibition: “When I reviewed the Smithsonian’s web pages made for the show, I saw that the process had given short shrift to many games that moved the medium forward as far as artful content is concerned. There is nothing from Ralph Baer, the National Medal of Technology winner who made the original Magnavox Odyssey. Baer is often considered to be the father of videogames. And there is nothing from Rockstar Games here, the Grand Theft Auto company that made the touching, brilliant western Red Dead Redemption two years ago, or any of the Sierra adventures so popular in the 1990s. Fans voted for Tim Schafer’s middling Brutal Legend to be shown in the nation’s capital instead of the far better Grim Fandango and Psychonauts.”
  • We Can’t Prove When Super Mario Bros. Came Out: “This isn’t Amelia Earhart or the Bermuda Triangle we’re talking about here: this is one of the highest grossing consumer entertainment products in history, introduced less than 30 years ago, and we can’t seem to get the date right. I decided recently to try to set this right. I wanted to prove, once and for all, exactly when Super Mario Bros. invaded North America. I wanted to put this whole embarrassing mess behind us so that the history books of the future could be properly informed, and so that places like Wikipedia would have a definitive source to cite. Did I find the answer? Well, sort of. Read on to see just how difficult this search turned out to be.”
  • On Kickstarter, There Are No Guarantees: “As the hours wind down on Auditorium 2: Duet, as Stallwood begins to confront the possibility that his sequel will not get funded, his team has started to examine about what went right…and what went wrong. Even if the Kickstarter idea blows up in their face, Stallwood doesn’t necessarily regret trying it out. “Definitely our biggest problem over here that we know, and I think we’ve always known, is getting any kind of attention is really hard, and we still don’t know how to do it,” he said. “Regardless of whether the Kickstarter fails or not, I do feel like a lot more people know who Cipher Prime is, which is really cool and super exciting.””
  • Engendering AI in Videogames: “If the trend towards female AI since Alien has been to intimidate, interfere and, at worst, attempt to kill the protagonists, is it surprising that BioWare wanted to avoid fulfilling that cliché with EDI? Instead, they go back to the male-voiced malevolent AI in the “Overlord” DLC pack for Mass Effect 2, with a Cerberus scientist experimenting a little too much on a man named David with some geth AI technology. Uncomfortably reminiscent of The Lawnmower Man, “Overlord” had the creepiest voice I’ve yet to experience in a videogame: it scared me so much that I had to play it with people in the room in broad daylight.”
  • The Collector: “Used games: they’re great because they’re cheap. They’re bad because they’re killing the industry. They are awesome, deplorable, good and evil. Used games are certainly something, but we’re not sure what that something is yet. They are definitely tangible objects, but beyond that commentators and pundits have reached an impasse. My question is: why on Earth would anyone want to sell their games?”
  • True PC Gaming talks to the man behind PCGaming Wiki: “The biggest mistake that I’ve made is seriously underestimating how popular the site would be and how inadequate my initial choice of hosting service was. The site was brought down a number of times due to very intense traffic, and the situation got so bad that my hosting company terminated my service and forced me to migrate right in a period of very high demand.”
  • This is the best Minecraft video I’ve seen in a while.

Music this week, well, it’s my teenage anthem.

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Jim Rossignol

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