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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for being pleased that it is raining so that you can stay inside and browse a collection of fine videogames. Perhaps, when you have a few minutes, you might read a few articles of games writing, too.

  • Jon Shafer’s design blog has been filling up with At The Gates stuff in the past week, but before that he wrote this: “A moniker often used for empire builders is “4X”, for exploration, expansion, exploitation and extermination. Unfortunately, once you get halfway through a game the first two Xs – by far the most enjoyable for many players – are pretty much wrapped up. Unless you really enjoy watching meters fill up or have a particular love for the less-than-perfect combat systems these games tend to feature there’s really not much left to see. And so we quit and start over.”
  • Teaching lessons via Minecraft: “The recent Queensland floods had a catastrophic impact, but Dr Jeff Brand, a Professor at Bond University refused to take things lying down. When significant flood damage resulted in the closure of his university department and a disruption in his carefully planned curriculum, he decided to think laterally. Jeff Brand decided he was going to teach his class no matter what. His solution involved avatars.”
  • Electron Dance on polish and hand-holding: “The mainstream is all about the super-polish. Games polished to the point where you can barely see the mechanics any more. For all the misguided fear that art games are going to take over the world, some shooters are more like Dear Esther than Dear Esther is. Cut scenes bridge the player between events, complex actions are reduced to a single click and there is no such thing as “player error”, only bad design.”
  • Polygon hears from the imprisoned Bohemia developers: “I am afraid I cannot fully express how exactly I felt when we first heard from the outside world,” said Buchta, “but it was great to see how many people support us.”
  • New Statesman on why videogame violence is not really violence at all: “The second thing that makes violence a staple of gaming is that opposition and destruction lead to conflict and chaos and these are inherently interesting things in a safe environment. Conflict gives us a challenge, a test of skill and strategy to be overcome. Chess is a violent game. Sure, you don’t see the pawns get clubbed down with maces, but it’s a simulation of conflict, and it’s great. Meanwhile chaos provides dynamism and a sense of the unpredictable, like a child knocking over their tower of building blocks and watching how the blocks tumble down the gamer gets to see the world react to what they are doing. The success of the Angry Birds series is a testament to the simple joys of knocking things over, watching them fall and squashing smug pigs.”
  • The Pirate Hacks Of Africa.
  • This is charting an odd trend, in some ways: the top five remakes of 2012.
  • Dan Whitehead remembers the 8-bit version of Alien: “Make no mistake, this was – and still is – a creepy and scary game. The alien itself only appears as a looped animation, triggered whenever a crew member is in the same room as the beast, but its presence is felt throughout the game. With such basic visuals, the game instead turned to sound to crank up the tension.”
  • Mode 7’s Paul Taylor on Super Hexagon: “Like the most potent seducers, Super Hexagon’s weapon of choice is taunting. It says, “The only reason you can’t beat me is because you’re not trying hard enough.” The most galling thing about this is that it is absolutely true: no game has ever epitomised the modern deprecation of talent more than this; it goes to bed reading Malcolm Gladwell. You don’t have to be good “at this sort of thing” (I’m definitely not – you should see me playing…any game…ever), you just have to put the time in. It knows that, you know that, and it knows that you know.”
  • Ubisoft’s plan to change story-telling in videogames, via their “Alice” initiative: “The first game to see significant support from Alice, however, is Watch Dogs, the upcoming open-world crime game that generated loads of excitement at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. During our visit to Alice, the writers and sound designers rush to conceal their Watch Dogs scripts and working videos from view. The second we leave their general vicinity, they frantically get back to work.”

Music this week is Thomas Köner’s light-hearted pop hit, Novaya Zemlya 1.

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