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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for waking up in the dark, wondering what day it is. Ah, that day. With its links to a wide range of videogame writings. Better get up and get on with it, eh? That kettle won’t make tea by itself!

  • Simon Parkin on League Of Legends: “Twice a month Riot Games, creator of League of Legends, hires an actor to visit its Santa Monica studio. While the developer adds a couple of playable characters to the online PC game each month, this performer isn’t hired to provide voice acting for a new champion, or to be rigged with Ping-Pong balls and motion-captured while pretending to swipe swords or cast spells. Rather, they are hired to mingle, to roam the studio and chat with the other staff, pretending to be a new employee.”
  • Molle Industria on what Independence means: “A couple of years ago I proposed to frame the Indie game movement as part of larger trend that ranges from the punk movement from the 70s and 80s to today’s independent cultural producers, publishers and makers. From zinesters to urban farmers. I believe the indie gaming movement is yet another instance of a soft-rebellion of (mostly) skilled workers who realize to have an excess of creativity. That is a creativity that exceeds the ability of the capital to commodify it.”
  • Michael Abbott thinks game criticism needs a broader vocabulary: “We need a better way to write about games. I don’t mean a new form of journalism. I’m not seeking the Lester Bangs or Pauline Kael of video games. My point is much simpler. We need more words.” A commendable exhortation which revivifies both my sesquipedalianism and my enjoyment of obscurantism or arcane plays on our ludic idiom.
  • More Parkin, with Proteus On A Trampoline At GameCity: “Good friend of Hookshot, Brandon Boyer, creator of Venus Patrol, a game site dedicated to independent games, is running a special area in the main tent dubbed a ‘gym’. Here players can play Bennett Foddy’s GIRP on a giant floor mat keyboard or, brilliantly, enjoy George Buckingham’s Proteus ‘Frog Mod’, in which you control a frog roaming through Proteus’s pixel block world by jumping up and down while holding a PS Move controller.”
  • Probability in games: XCOM [WARNING: Contains graphs]: “There’s also some interesting game mechanics that require a bit of consideration. One good example of this is the Assault class’s “Rapid Fire” ability. This allows you to take two shots instead of one, but at a 15% reduced chance to hit. Obviously, as the player, you want to know: when it is advisable to fire a single shot, versus firing two reduced aim shots? That depends on a couple of other factors: are you worried about using too much ammo at this stage, and will one shot be enough to kill the alien?”
  • What does Hotline Miami sound like? Like this: “And you’re off. The world wobbles, spins, blurs around you, moving to a neon beat. You’re moving faster than any human man has ever moved before, and those that try to stand in your way are put down before they can express surprise. The first, the one guarding the front entrance to this place, this mafia hideout, died when you choked him and took the pipe he was holding, which is now flying down the hall and into the face of another guard. And now you’re slamming that face into the ground, again and again and again until the movement has gone out of him.”
  • The Rise, Fall, And Rebirth Of Adventure Gaming: “In case you’ve never played one, here’s a quick primer. Adventure games came in many shapes and styles, but usually shared a goal – sending you into an interesting world to solve puzzles with ingenuity – and usually a bottomless pocket full of assorted crap that would eventually come in useful for something. They were full of characters and challenges, comedy and lateral thinking, exploration and discovery, with settings that could be standard game fare like fantasy kingdoms and deep space, but were just as likely to take you to Parisian cafés, the mean streets of film noir, or back in time to an Atlantean temple.”
  • Craig suggests the five scariest PC games of all time: “*What? No AvP? No FEAR? No Hidden: Source? Where’s Pathologic? Why not Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason instead of Amnesia? All fine questions… that I can answer by pointing out that you might find things scarier than I do. Even though it does make you less of a man than I am, I’m contractually obliged to let you know that it’s all okay, and that you’re allowed to be a big baby in face of those games that I consider as scary as a kitten’s hug. But please do let us know what you do find scary, and what your list would be, because fear is best shared in a big group.”
  • Looking back at the first AssCreed game: “The Assassin’s Creed games may be about exploring the genetic memories of Desmond Miles’ ancestors, but you won’t need a fancy Animus device to remember the series’ first instalment. It came out just five years ago, and it’s weird to think that it was as recently as the start of November 2007 that we had no idea about any of this. Since then, Assassin’s Creed has become one of the biggest game series of its generation, and in Ezio Auditore – star of three games in the peculiar grouping that is ‘the Assassin’s Creed 2 trilogy’ – it has come as close as anybody to creating this generation’s equivalent of the classic gaming mascot. How fitting that Ezio had an uncle called Mario.”
  • The Elder Scrolls: quantum mechanics and game stories: “Instead of trying to negotiate five or six endings into one by virtue of information selection, or letting the player decide what happened on a meta-narrative plane, the solution is totally in-world, while simultaneously a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the problem. When the magical Mantella is activated, it causes a Dragon Break, a magical event with the outcome that all the endings simultaneously and truly occur. The civil war ends in a relative stalemate, because every king wins and loses the war; the Orcs do create their own state, but are also defeated by the other kings; and the Empire re-establishes control over the area. There’s a weird in-lore technical discussion of it over at the Imperial Library website which suggests what happens – namely, that when the timeline is skewed, the Dragon Break retroactively changes the past to fall in line with the new present conditions. Yes, it’s confusing, and quite a few characters and books in the game devote time to speculating on what exactly happened, and how.”
  • A gallery of the past month’s images from space.
  • Singularity Chess.

Music this week is a kind of suitably dark Halloween ambient.

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Jim Rossignol

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