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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for waking up and peering out the window at unseasonable snow. Then perhaps to the Internet Parlour, for tea and manic page refreshing. Later there will be time for intriguing reports and opinions from far away lands.

  • Polygon’s piece on Kaos Studios is a fascinating read: “That summer, THQ and Kaos undertook an audit of Homefront. They looked at everything in the design document and pitch documents, everything that Kaos had promised since 2008, and then made careful estimates of how long it would take to deliver every feature. That’s when the full extent of the damage became clear.”
  • Read Christopher Livingston on Real Lives: “At age one, I’ve grown a baby tooth and learned to crawl. At age two, I’m walking and welcoming a new baby sister, Ritu. At three years, I try to start my own business, but the game tells me I’m not old enough. Lame. I also contract the measles. Ooh, genuinely lame. So, three years in, some victories, some losses. As this is an educational simulation, I’m given facts just about every time something happens in Dev’s life, and I’ll pass them on to you!”
  • How D&D helped solve a problem in the science of seeing stuff: “In 1998, Kingstone showed that people will automatically look where other people are looking. Other scientists have since found this gaze-copying behaviour among many other animals, from birds to goats to dolphins. It seems fairly obvious why we would do this—we get an easy clue about interesting information in the world around us. But what are we actually doing?”
  • The Ninth Life is quite the project: “Three friends attempt to complete each game in their entire PC games catalogue in alphabetical order, with only one life per game. Which games will they clock? Which will they fail miserably? Which ones will even install after all these years? One chance, one life, no mistakes.”
  • The Guardian on why James Bond games don’t work: “James Bond movies are, unlike many action flicks, utterly inseparable from the act of watching the lead character. Bond films are romances between Bond and the audience. Games have trouble exploring that because they make the central error of thinking we all want to be Bond. Some people do, perhaps, but most just want to watch him. And even if you do want to be him, the things you want to do aren’t those that games can adequately reflect or reproduce. You can’t press X to be charming and urbane; you can’t hit the O button to send a glass of Chateau Margaux 1985 across a Monte Carlo casino toward a beautiful heiress. Well, you could, but it’s unlikely to figure in a Treyarch tie-in.”
  • Eurogamer’s Richard Leadbetter review’s Microsoft Surface RT: “So is the Surface RT a nuclear disaster of a product with no redeeming features whatsoever? Not quite – clearly, there is some potential here. The Metro UI works really nicely, offering up a classy, visually rich alternative to iOS and Android with the context-sensitive icons and the “swipe from the sides” access for additional functions just two little elements that work really well. But a £400 tablet cannot be recommended on the basis of a collection of neat features, a nice UI and a decent browser.”
  • Tom Chick’s article on botters’ bears in Guild Wars 2 made us laugh, then sigh: “That it remains is a sign of ArenaNet’s negligence. I don’t use that word lightly. I don’t presume to know what goes on behind the scenes of an MMO, or how hard it is to keep bots out of a game. But I do know when the developers need to do more to police their game. The situation in Guild Wars 2 has gone long past this point. It’s affecting my experience, and I can only imagine what it’s doing to the player-driven economy. It’s a parade of bears and under-armored Rangers in honor of ArenaNet’s indifference.”
  • The Psychology of Tetris: “Many human games are basically ritualised tidying up. Snooker, or pool if you are non-British, is a good example. The first person makes a mess (the break) and then the players take turns in potting the balls into the pockets, in a vary particular order. Tetris adds a computer-powered engine to this basic scenario – not only must the player tidy up, but the computer keeps throwing extra blocks from the sky to add to the mess. It looks like a perfect example of a pointless exercise – a game that doesn’t teach us anything useful, has no wider social or physical purpose, but which weirdly keeps us interested.” (I’d argue that “tidying up” is actually one of the true genres of gaming. (Pet theory…))
  • A Mike Singleton obituary. Worth reading and remembering.
  • Eskil Steenberg was showing me amazing demoscene generative videos this week, this one stood out.
  • Oof, it feels weird to be posting two obituaries in the same SP, but here’s one for meteoric architect Lebbeus Woods, who was an inspiration to numerous game designers and level architects.
  • True PC Gaming did a podcast with, well, yours truly.

Music this week is from Fennesz’ last album, AUN.

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Jim Rossignol

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