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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for packing away nerd paraphernalia into boxes, and wondering if you will ever see it again, or if it will one day be unearthed from a forgotten loft by your grandchildren. They are also for sitting with the quiet hum of a computer and leafing through the internet pages from the past week. What have we read? What will we read?

  • I’m sure most of you have browsed The Valve Handbook For New Employees, but if not, you probably should.
  • A thoughtful piece at Eurogamer looks at how the economies of videogames echo the economy of the real world, and how that sheds light on the recession: “Chains of system abuse often occur in the virtual world. During the crash of 2008 there was a similar occurrence threatening to take place within CCP’s Eve Online. An exploit within the MMO allowed players to create factories that pumped out valuable minerals used in making advanced tech 2 items, without using up the rare resources that were involved in the process. Some player-run corporations began building bugged stations and creating small amounts of these valuable minerals. This made up so little of the market that CCP didn’t spot the gradual influx of new money.”
  • I’m sure most of you will have read Some people are gay in space. Get over it. It’s Brooker on form: “Obviously you can’t fight the big gay penis in your head. It has no physical form, so you can’t get a grip on it, much as you’d like to. You’d love to grab it and throttle it until it splutters its last. That might bring you closure. But no. So you do the next best thing. You condemn homosexuals in the real world. Maybe if they could just stop all this “being gay” business for 10 minutes, you’d get some respite from that scary headcock. It might shrivel away completely, leaving nothing behind. Except maybe a nice bit of bum. No, dammit! Forget I said that! No bum either!”
  • The Atlantic’s Jon Blow profile is quite the thing: “It’s a characteristically audacious plan for a man who has earned a reputation not just as the video-game industry’s most cerebral developer, but also as its most incisive and polarizing internal critic. To Blow, being labeled the most intellectual man in video games is a little like being called the most chaste woman in a brothel: not exactly something to crow about to Mom and Dad. “I think the mainstream game industry is a fucked-up den of mediocrity,” he told me. “There are some smart people wallowing in there, but the environment discourages creativity and strength and rigor, so what you get is mostly atrophy.””
  • Relatedly, and a response, Leigh Alexander on the auteur nature of developers like Blow and Fish: “Look at the way the Atlantic’s writer views and interprets Blow, and notice that there are all kinds of ranges in between; the writer found himself creating his own narrative from being exposed to Blow’s abstract and mysterious — yet doubtless personal — approach to creating player experience. The question of how much we (“we” being “games critics,” fans, developers, players, whatever) should consider the identity and personality of a game’s creator has been on the minds of many since the release of Fez, Phil Fish and Renaud Bedard’s Independent Games Festival grand prize winner five years in the making.”
  • True PC Gaming as an interview with the devs behind Waveform: “Unfortunately I think that’s what a lot of big budget studios do. They rely on hype to trick people into buying the game, and of course usually for much higher prices than what Waveform and other indie games sell for. And if people don’t like it, those studios don’t really care because they already made a sale and they figure that the next time the hype train rolls around they’ll be able to trick new people so the unsatisfied customers don’t matter.”
  • With digital distribution disrupting traditional publishing, who is filling the gap for digital games? “There are digital publishing and marketing entities who say they understand the landscape, that they’re the industry’s publisher 2.0. But they’re forgetting these fundamentals. They simply stop at solving the discoverability issue and call it marketing. They’ll partner with a developer and check off boxes, helping submit their game and guiding it through certification, if necessary. Then they might put out a press release and chase it with some PR, at most spend a little money with a media referral partner. If this is the new formula of success in digital games, then why are so few people making any money?”
  • Paul Dean on Master Of Magic: “So you find yourself clearing that nearby cave of the sprites that haunt it, then capturing a magical node on the edge of your town, returning home with hauls of gold, mana, even magical items. As you plough your profits into expanding your modest territory, you consider settling nearby lands. Heroes turn up at your front door to offer their services and find themselves test-beds for your latest spells. Before long, Sir Harold can barely lead your armies, so burdened is he by the magical items you made for him, while Brax the Dwarf never asked for the ability to walk on water and probably hasn’t bathed in weeks.”
  • Patricia Hernandez writes some good stuff: “I want to make choices—what we do in life is always a choice—I want to live a life worth living, I want purpose. I figure these are some of the fundamental ingredients toward approaching happiness. This desire for a worthwhile, meaningful life bleeds into games. I want them to mean something, stand for something or say something on top of being amusing to play. If I want to be bold in my demands, having both mechanical strength and thematic strength in games would be fantastic.” That’s a cry I’ve heard pretty regularly from gamers, and I think it’s why every game that is wide open, and more of a toolbox than a story, ends up earning itself the most fanatical players. There might be less of them – most people want to prescribed entertainment experience – but the ones who taste freedom and meaning in a game end up being the most dedicated.
  • This is the best explanation I have seen for why people should be excited about Notch’s space game: “I mean, sure – I could go and dig up an emulator of a 8 bit or 16 bit era computer, and start hacking… But that wouldn’t be nearly as exciting, because all the cool and impressive things on that platform have already been done by others and long abandoned and forgotten. It would be archeology rather than hacking. 0×10c promises to bring some of that excitement back, in a new context that makes it exciting. Now hacking a 16 bit CPU has a practical purpose and in game benefits. There will be a new community with which you can share your findings. You will be able to experience that joy of exploring and building new systems while working under strict limitations.”
  • I wanted to share our pub sign for Sir, You Are Being Hunted.

Music this week is from The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, it’s their dainty pop classic, Elevator of the Machine.

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Jim Rossignol

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