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The Sunday Papers

NO FAILURE.

Sundays are for manning a table at a local craft fair. But they can also be for reading pre-prepared links to the week’s best (mostly) games writing, while attempting to look the other way while the author again links to their own podcast.

  • Singularity was a jumbled mess when it was released, owing too much to its influences and doing little with its time-warping concept. Reading Keith Fuller explain what went wrong with the Raven Software game, based on his experience as a programmer on the game, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic. “For a day, the game was cancelled. Dates had been missed, and the project was nowhere near complete. So when the VP from Activision visited the studio and saw the true state of affairs, her assessment – while a shock – wasn’t overly surprising. She made it clear that she was going back to HQ to tell them to cancel Singularity.”
  • Polygon tell the story of the last years of Irrational Games. Most of the quotes in this are anonymous, which is a shame, but on balance it paints a portrait of Ken Levine’s exacting standards more than egomania. Also, that maybe Jordan Thomas is the best. “Sources say Thomas and Levine shared similar visions, and that Thomas helped to realize them. Thomas is described as someone who could take the many ideas and projects in progress and organize them into one vision. He could snap the studio out of the iterative cycle by creating a map toward realizing the ideas in Levine’s head.”
  • BioShock Infinite itself is of course back in the spotlight after Irrational Games’ recent semi-demise. Steve Anichini worked on the game and writes in detail about the game’s lighting art and tech. I love this kind of detail. “Doing a limited depth-only pre pass was still a win on the consoles, but we disabled it on most PC hardware. We only rendered a subset of potential occluders in this pass. Primitives in the depth-only pass had to be static (no skinning), cover a reasonable screen area (nothing small), and require no state changes (simple opaque materials only). The player hands and gun were an exception to the “no skinning” rule, as they always covered a significant amount of screen space and needed to be masked out in stencil anyway.The extra pass was rendered in parallel and was really cheap to do, and on the consoles saved much more GPU than it cost.”
  • Humble Bundles often clock up revenue in the millions, but it’s not always clear how that money is then split between the different developers who take part. Pocketwatch Games, makerse of Monaco, reveal the numbers behind their recent participation. It’s nice to get a developer perspective on how these things work out, even if this is more about the numbers than the words. “Monaco was a Beat the Average game, which means that not all HIB bundle sales resulted in a Monaco sale. Of the 493,000 bundles sold, 370,034 of them included Monaco. Of those, 270,677 have activated their Steam keys. Interestingly, this means three quarters of the Humble customers beat the average. (Remember that the average starts low and climbs as people beat the average).”
  • PC Gamer has begun a three-part series on the creation of Crown, a CS:GO map vying for competitive status and made by Shawn “FMPONE” Snelling and pro-player and mapmaker Sal “VOLCANO” Garozzo. Anything nitty-gritty about mapmaking, I like: “Volcano and I have slightly different perspectives. I dig Dust2 because it’s easy to play, is spacious, and has a warm-feeling aesthetic. Volcano likes Inferno because its layout is probably the best in the game for competitive play: teams have a large number of different strategic choices, and they never feel predictable.”
  • Ars Technica’s Casey Johnston interviews the maker of Manhattancraft, who is attempting to build the entire New York island within Minecraft using satellite imagery. “While generating a building or a single structure is tough but doable, the challenges of replicating an entire city composed of those building models are gargantuan. The buildings are an expression of a larger system that Mitchell is pulling together that he has termed “SparseWorld.” According to a paper Mitchell wrote for the magazine Technophilic, the system combines “orthoimagery, bathyspheric, and elevation data from the USGS EROS service, and 3D buildings from Google’s 3D Warehouse” to create models. In the case of Manhattan, it takes a server cluster with 300 cores and 200GB of RAM a few hours to render Mitchell’s current best version of a model of Manhattan.” Rendering time well spent.
  • How big is our solar system? This to-scale pixel representation suggests pretty big.
  • Splash Damage’s Ed Stern dives deep in explaining why a BBC report about a bird which makes fart noises is funny.
  • The Crate & Crowbar is no longer just a podcast. It now gets drunk while recording videos of games too, with a Dark Souls playthrough now underway. NO FAILURE.

Music this week is Architecture in Helsinki’s new single, I Might Survive. Although I don’t know what I think of it yet. Here it is on Soundcloud for those without Spotify.

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Graham Smith

Editor-in-chief

Graham is to blame for all this.

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