Sundays are for making up for a week of unfulfilled gaming ambition by finally getting around to playing all those games. Right after reading through the week’s best writing about videogames.
- TIGSource‘s front page isn’t often updated these days, but its forum remains a great source of new games, developer feedback and, increasingly, history. Sometimes that’s developers returning to write retrospectives of their own work, as in this post (and those that follow) on Papers, Please. “Search Photo Confiscation: This is the latest major cut I can remember. An early assumption was that the game would have both the search mechanic (which left naked photos on your desk) and a way to sell those photos for money. There’s even a devlog post where I’m wink wink hinting at this, as if it’s not an obvious extension of the search mechanic. This is basic low hanging fruit when dealing with the concepts of security and privacy wrapped up in body scanning. Surely those security personnel are keeping and/or profitting from naked pictures of people. Now you can too!” Check out also the screenshots of Pope’s development tools. Hot.
- Not every developer is kind enough to return to write detailed post-mortems of their own game, but I am partial to looking at old developer threads for games that would later become enormously successful. Here’s Notch posting the first public build of Minecraft. It’s 49 minutes and 25 seconds before someone shares the first screenshot of something they’ve built, a one-block wide bridge. Here’s also Derek Yu posting a public build of the original Spelunky in late 2008. “the more I see the name of this game, the more it conjures up ejaculatory imagery,” replied increpare. See? History.
- Yes, Madden hasn’t been on PC since 2008, but you don’t need to play the series to enjoy SB Nation’s Breaking Madden diary. You also don’t need to know a single thing about American Football to enjoy the story of CLARENCE BEEFTANK, a player created who is so strong and heavy he can punch through an entire defensive line, and fall down under his own weight if he runs too fast. “Born in 1937. Parents were a rhinoceros, a Sherman oak, a wheelbarrow full of graphite, a ray of light that shone through the clouds, a fulfilled prophecy, a buried time capsule full of set-and-baited mouse traps, and a real big ol’ dude.” Worth it for the GIFs, too.
- I almost gave this a whole post on its own earlier in the week. This insightful sixteen-minute YouTube video is part examination of Skyrim’s enemy AI, part game design theory, and it comes with a playable mod at the end. Mages r dum lol.
- Soren Johnson is rightly heralded for his work on Civilization IV, but the eight years since have seen him work on only one ‘major’ released game, Spore. Earlier this month he founded his own company, and in a post on his own site this week he charted those years and proclaimed he was giving up on giving up. “Looking back at my post-Civ career, I compromised the games I wanted to make with what my employers were willing to fund. With Spore, that compromise meant finishing someone else’s game. With Strategy Station, that compromise meant working without a team. With Dragon Age Legends, that compromise meant turning an RPG into a social game. With Zynga, that compromise meant making my game under the shadow of indifferent management. I was giving up before I had even begun.” It seems like almost every designer whose work you’ve ever enjoyed has the same story, but exciting things ahead from Johnson, hopefully.
- Every November, Refe Tuma and his wife devote their time to making their kids believe that their toy dinosaurs come to life while they sleep. John left this link here and maybe he had something meaningful to say about mystery and childhood wonder. I’m linking it because I’m fully in favour of lying to children and photos of toy dinosaurs breaking things.
- Risk: Legacy is a boardgame that changes permanently according to decisions made by players, from the naming of continents to the placing of cities to decisions with far more sweeping consequences. Gamasutra write up a talk by its designer, Rob Daviau, on permanence in game design. “Underneath the box’s back tray is an envelope that says “do not open, ever”, and it has no indication in the manual about what it is and what it’s for (he wanted to put “do not open until instructed” and then never instruct, but feared gamers would pore through manuals in a frenzy). The result was all kinds of house rules — we’ll open after a unanimous vote, we’ll open after the 15th game, et cetera.” My own Risk Legacy game ended when one of our members moved to Sweden, permanently. Before that, we got most of the way through the game’s envelopes, and had a lot of memorable experiences. I hope everyone everywhere is stealing its ideas.
Since people seemed to enjoy last week’s doom jazz, music this week is a whole album of tracks to solve crimes and drink to. Or a YouTube link of the first track, for those without Spotify.