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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for preparation. Physical: with a cup of tea or coffee. Psychic: with a zen-like processing of this week’s writings about videogames and related ephemera.

  • Rab is really serving up something worth reading over at Eurogamer. This one is heartfelt and about the healing we all need, from time to time: “I’ve never been so unsure of something I’ve written in my life. I’ve probably never written something so personal. But I felt that to properly convey how important I think Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus is, I had to be honest about why it really speaks to me.”
  • Also at Eurogamer, A Horse Named Gizmondo: The Inside Story of the World’s Greatest Failed Console
  • Piracy is a fact of life, so why not just have fun with it? “Under the Ocean, a fully-fledged sequel to 2010 free download Under the Garden, launched as a paid alpha build earlier this year, costing $7 for the base version of the game, and $25 for a special edition. However, there is also a third free “version” of the game, titled “Annoying Cockroach Edition” — although it’s not really a separate version at all. It’s simply a humorous acknowledgment that some people (well, “cockroaches”) will skip the two legitimate options for obtaining the game, and just pirate it. “Pirate the game when it comes out,” the cockroach version’s features list reads. “Not much we can do to stop you, is there?” There was even a link to infamous torrent website Pirate Bay, giving visitors access to a free, pirated version of the game.”
  • Also at Gamasutra, Cliff Bleszinski’s Game Developer Flashcards: “”It’s just X+Y” This is when a developer dismisses another successful product, sour grapes style, because he can easily see the formula. The fact that the formula is so simple and obvious is often why said product is so successful. For example, Words with Friends: “It’s just asynchronous Scrabble.” Yes, it is, and it’s brilliant.”
  • A different kind of “accessibility” for gaming: “Sometimes, my disability prevents me from moving my hands fast enough to execute certain sequences in games. For example, one of my favorite games of all time is Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Near the end of the game Drake is in a Tibetan temple, in which there are levers he must crank to open doors. The way the player makes Drake open these doors is by tapping the triangle button repeatedly. Because of the delay in my muscles, there is no way for me to tap fast enough to get him to open the door. When I realized this, I was forced to confront the idea that I had just spent $60 on a game, progressed most of the way through it without help and now had to rely on somebody else to get me past that point. Beyond that point, however, the game was easy for my hands to handle. It was literally two small sequences, opening two small doors that made the game inaccessible. For me, game accessibility is not an empty phrase or a buzzword – it’s a part of my life.”
  • The Problem With Half-Life: “Times have changed. It feels weird to carry around 12 different guns at any one time, it’s strange to shoot distant targets from the hip, it’s odd to move through the environment like Ice Man and the qucksave dance between death and combat now feels awkward… Most troublesome however is that shooting down an alien gunship just isn’t as fun as it used to be, taking on a Strider has become an obstacle instead of a spectacle. Fundamentally the game suddenly feels like a game, instead of the immersive, atmospheric and mysterious experience it once was.” Don’t really agree with this. It’s a highly subjective judgement, although one I have heard plenty of people state.
  • There’s a great point in here, that the author doesn’t quite bring to the surface. It’s about how game story-telling could look to Dungeon Mastering as a fundamental design philosophy: “I like to think of Deus Ex as the best example, because it never says, “here are your choices, now push button to receive ending.” Instead, you just play the game, and the game reacts. You didn’t kill a boss early on? Well now they’re back, and conflict seems unavoidable this time. I suppose that you could argue that non-linearity in terms of plot is unnecessary, and you’d be correct. A game can pull you in by just leaving you to play with the mechanics in the way you see fit, but considering that this is the only medium where plot choices can be made, I’d say it’s reasonable to desire just a few game-changing decisions every once in a while. Call them choices, call them “optional quests,” but whatever they are, this is the only place on the planet that we can effectively use them in our storytelling, and yet we’re constantly avoiding it.”
  • An interview with Hidden Path (who just successfully Kickstarted Defense Grid 2): “We wanted a world that took itself seriously so that you could suspend disbelief that it was a “real” place if you wanted. We recognized that we hadn’t invested into this story the same amount that an amazing author puts into creating a new world, but we wanted the character and events in the story to take themselves seriously and seem real to them. From that point, once we got to there, the character could joke or muse, or be a little silly, or be serious, and that’s all allowable, because they’re never questioning whether they are real or not by their actions or words. They’re being consistent with the human condition of “what would I do if I found myself in this situation?” and that to us was the most important part of getting the feel correct.”
  • Mr Yang talks Thief: “In “Assassins,” you are told to gather supplies and infiltrate a local Hammerite temple… except within the first few seconds, your supplier gets shot in the face (by thugs sent to kill you) and your objectives change to tail, undetected, your would-be assassins through the streets of the City, back to whoever sent them after you. It’s the first time the designers so quickly mislead your expectations with the objectives list.”
  • A beautiful Tumblr of British airfields.
  • Why China has two internets.

Music this week is The Sight Below’s Without Motion.

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Jim Rossignol

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