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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for listening to spooky old records and peering out at the rain. Ah, the British Summer. Fortunately we’ve got a blazing hot internet to crowd around. Gosh, look at the glow!

  • Brainygamer argues that it’s high noon for shooters: “History rarely offers a precise road map, but it can sometimes point us in a useful direction. The decline of the Western – the causes of its near-demise, and its reemergence in other guises – are worth noting because I believe shooter games are on a similar trajectory. It will be 1959 at E3 next week, and we will find ourselves awash in barely distinguishable shooters. But it won’t last. It can’t last, and that’s a good and necessary thing.” This seems optimistic to me. I bet the folks in comics thought they were going to get past the superhero thing back in the 1980s, but oh look. My suspicion is that we’ll just have to hope that amazing stuff still happens in the margins. (And it will, as the next link testifies.)
  • Edge on games in which “just being there” is enough, or the trend that seems to link Journey, Dear Esther and Proteus: “Thatgamecompany’s Journey, Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus, thechineseroom’s Dear Esther: all these titles challenge the most basic assumptions of what a game is by doing away with any kind of challenge or conflict, and instead focusing almost exclusively on the player’s movement through a world. Each differs greatly in tone, atmosphere and style, but the task for the player in all of them is, ultimately, to walk from a starting point to a finishing point. None pose any kind of real hindrance to progression, and of the three only Journey has even the simplest of puzzles.” My personal feeling is that while Journey and Dear Esther are extraordinarily beautiful, Proteus is the only one that is genuinely interesting, thanks to it providing us with some agency. Journey and Dear Esther both are simply about walking forward.
  • Craig Stern on combat in RPGs: “Battlestar Galactica provides us with a great object lesson in the difference between tone and mechanics. BSG featured a race of robots that were essentially immortal–upon death, their memories would wirelessly transmit to a resurrection facility and they would wake up in a new body. Mechanically, it’s not that different from the sort of constant resurrection we see in an RPG. But tonally, the way these two things are handled couldn’t be more different. Compare the pain and trauma of Cylon resurrection depicted on the show with the glassy-eyed indifference of characters resurrected in RPGs.”
  • RPS chum Mark Wallace has been writing for Wired. He suggests that Facebook killed the virtual world we were promised: “Facebook’s near-universal appeal — and virtual worlds’ near-universal failure — has as much to do with presentation as anything else. The very concept of a virtual world works against its acceptance. If I’m your great-aunt and I need a place to post pictures of your cousin’s bat mitzvah, I don’t necessarily mind joining a network in order to do so. But do I really want to join another world?”
  • Fred Dutton on the Activision/Zampella/West events: “Activision also claims the pair engaged “in insubordination in support of their efforts to identify the Modern Warfare franchise solely with Infinity Ward”. Relating to this, Schwarz notes that Activision was particularly “upset” that West removed its spinning logo from Modern Warfare 2’s start-up screen.” (See! The spinning logos at the start of a game are the most important bit! I had always known that to be true.)
  • Leigh Alexander on the 20-Year Estrangement of the Two Guys from Andromeda:”Their working relationship struggled under the stresses of Sierra’s high-pressure latter days in the 1990s, when adventure games required bigger and bigger budgets and saw lower and lower sales. For Sierra, the increasing challenges faced by the genre on which it had built its fortune culminated in a “Chainsaw Monday” where nearly 150 employees unceremoniously lost their jobs. “It was heartbreaking, seeing all of the people that we worked with, who worked on the projects but didn’t get the kind of notoriety that Mark and I did, who lost their jobs because of how radically the industry changed, and how Sierra changed,” Scott Murphy tells us. “We have really strong emotions about how all that worked out.””
  • Mysterious and handsome game developer Jim Rossignol was interviewed about his next videogame.
  • The museum of lost sounds.
  • Kevin Furlong on Wolfenstein 3D: “In Wolfenstein 3D you are the story. No cinematic intro, no in engine cutscenes, just a bit of text telling you you’re Captain William J “BJ” Blazcowicz who while on a reconnaissance mission were captured. You’ve overpowered the guard so are now armed with a knife and pistol, but you’re in the bowels of the prison and with barely any ammunition in the pistol you’ll need to make every shot count if you’re going to escape and get the Nazi plans to the allies before it’s too late. That’s all the setup you need and from that point it’s all about you and your experience traversing the corridors and finding the exits.”
  • Use Verb On Noun is a collection of paintings inspired by classic adventure games. RTS games seldom seem to inspire painters (although I saw some Starcraft paintings a few years ago.)
  • A podcast interview with Indie Game: The Movie creators Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky.
  • Has the internet caused a generation in which there is little technological innovation? That’s an interesting question.

Music this week is Aphex Twin’s Vordhosbn, which is old and distant, but still so beautiful, like a dream you had as a kid.

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Jim Rossignol

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