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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for recovering in the sunshine. Could it be the last day of sun before northern Europe is eaten by wintery gloom? Best make the most of it before making preparations for the dark.

  • Soren Johnson wrote a post-mortem of his time working on Spore. It makes for interesting, if occasionally rather obvious, reading: “Spore’s biggest issue was that the play at each stage was fairly shallow because the team was making five games at once. (At one point, Will described each of the game’s five stages as light versions of classics – cell is like Pac-Man, creature is Diablo, tribe is Populous, civilization is Civilization, and space is Masters of Orion.) However, making five different games at once is a bad idea; making one good game is usually hard enough.” From this perspective it’s sort of amazing that Spore hung together as well as it did.
  • Killscreen on Salty Bet: “This is not a fever-dream of my thirteen year-old nephew. This is Salty Bet’s Dream Cast Casino, the unholy copulation of a 4chan post and a cockfight. Salty Bet is an online fighting game where automated bots battle other bots 24/7. The audience cannot directly participate, but they can bet fake money, and jeer “POTATO” at inept bots. These seem to be people with questionable upbringings—your NeoGAF and Something Awful and Reddit hangers-on—who gather by the several-of-thousands at the nihilistic epicenter of the web, where pantsu and Thriller and an Everything is Terrible! meme of a kid churn in a queasy disarray.”
  • Tom Clancy is dead. Do not make Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, jokes. It’s too early. Instead, head over to Kotaku and think about his awesome legacy. Few of us will have this kind of influence on entertainment: “Under Ubisoft, the Tom Clancy games became an interesting sort of proving ground for talented game designers. On the one hand, these games all had to exist in a charmless world defined by men with guns. On the other, they were almost universally smarter than other shooters, more unforgiving, and required players to use their heads. Talented game-makers like Clint Hocking, Maxime Béland, Patrick Plourde, and plenty more have cut their teeth on Clancy games, and tracking down which designer made which game can be a fun exercise.”
  • Owen Faraday got to play Chaos against Julian Gollop, and this is what he wrote: “The multiplayer is quick and delightfully cut-throat (we’ve already been through a couple of matches this morning) but Gollop has big plans for Chaos as a single-player game. “The AI opponents will be quite important. They’ll have their own individual spells and equipment and their own personalities: how cowardly or aggressive they are, how deceitful, how often they change their minds about a strategy. They’ll have dialogue, too.”
  • True PC Gaming has been as busy as ever, with an article (which perhaps shoots some very large fish in a small barrel, asking about the use of quicktime events, and an article looking at underappreciated indies. Some great stuff in there.
  • A diary from The Shivering Isles in Oblivion: “The Shivering Isles is also famously mental. Those Isles are a bizarre place ruled by the god of madness, Sheogorath, whose rules are about as sensible as you’d expect from a god of madness. Sheogorath is in need of a mortal champion – you, of course – but you aren’t the first person who has been drawn to his surreal home, so the entire place is full of people who have been dragged in previously and driven mad by the place. There is not a single person in The Shivering Isles who isn’t batshit insane, apart from you.”
  • An account of Dwarf Fortress being exhibited at NYC MoMA: “In fact, seeing the display, I was a bit flummoxed that I had learned so much more about the game from the text of a New York Times Magazine article than actually seeing the object in one of the most preeminent museums in the world. In fact, the truly stunning thing about Dwarf Fortress is how the game makes you painfully aware of the stupendous number of challenges and choices that we take for granted. We live in a world with nested landscapes: some visual, some institutional, and the game is not just an ASCII screen saver, it is a meditation on how overwhelmingly complex it is to even make a crude dwarf chair, let alone the low-slung museum-pieces sitting in the next room over.”
  • Holy shit at this: Timothy Leary Video Games Unearthed in Archive: “Most of Leary’s software projects had a strong self-help bent, and aimed at helping users understand and improve their personalities through digital rather than pharmaceutical means. “Isn’t precise thinking about yourself the most basic tool for managing your life successfully?” players are asked at the beginning of “Mind Mirror” (1985), Leary’s one commercially released product, which allowed players to create, evaluate and role-play different personalities based on psychometric ideas from his 1950 Ph.D. thesis, “The Social Dimensions of Personality.””
  • Stumbled on this old Steve Gaynor article on the FEAR games, and that’s worth a read.
  • A Shelter post-mortem on Gamasutra: “At the time of the announce trailer we hadn’t decided if the main protagonist would be a badger or not. I remember that in a meeting we discussed that it could be easier for us to not connect to real animal life, because we could then have free reins to experiment with the hunting mechanics and how you would behave in the game world. In the end, it showed, it did not really matter that ”our” badger unrealistically was throwing herself against trees to make apples fall down or that she tracked down and killed foxes. The importance was her being a badger because it led to connections to funny clips on YouTube (Randall’s honey badger), a certain state in the US, the cull in the UK, and literary references like ”The Animals of Farthing Wood” and ”Watership Down”. In the end we fell in love with our badger and so did everyone else.”

Music this week is Kazuya Nagaya – The Sea Spills Over Into The Sky.

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