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The Sunday Papers

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The World Cup has started, which means Sunday are for the same thing as every other day: waiting for the football games to begin, then watching the football games. But I suppose we can find some time in between to round up a little of the week’s best games writing.

  • Let’s start with what I missed last week. Over at Edge Online, Chris Thursten writes a retrospective of Red Dead Redemption. I struggle to see beyond the game’s Rockstarian mission structure (do tasks for assholes of only sideways relevance to your character’s motivation), but Chris pins down everything that’s nevertheless great about the game:
  • What soon becomes evident is that the MacFarlane ranch has a Marston-shaped hole in it. When Marston leaves Bonnie for the last time near the end of the game, he is riding off to meet a tragedy that is grounded in his dual nature. Through Bonnie – and the future that she wants for him, but that it is impossible for him to have – the game intimates an inaccessible third option. Redemption binds him to a destiny that is always just out of shot, and it’s this that makes him a Western hero rather than a shooter protagonist with a cowboy hat on.

  • Meanwhile a Chris named Donlan, over at Eurogamer, writes about “those mountains”, scale, and E3 clichés. Open worlds are really the most fascinating design challenge right now:

    You can see why. One of the unintended consequences of an open world can be a kind of blandness creeping in, especially as open-world systems continue to calcify into rituals. Ubisoft, as is so often pointed out, leads the charge here. Ubisoft’s open-world games are increasingly fixated with controlling the map, section by section – screwing around with guard towers and then cleaning up all the nearby quest icons. Are you exploring these spaces, or are you just lawnmowing them?

  • Rob Fearon writes in Our Videogame Futures about the suggestion that EA might co-opt the Early Access or alpha-funding release model for themselves. I agree with Rob, but also: who can blame them? When they released Battlefield 4 and were (rightly) hammered for bugs, then fought a thankless uphill battle to change people’s perception with post-release updates, they must surely have looked to their side and seen a hundred unfinished, uncriticised, community-defended games. And given that, who wouldn’t think, ‘Yeah, let’s do that’?
  • Early Access existed to help games that couldn’t get made any other way exist and thrive. Over time we’ve changed that to paying for beta access to larger games, we’ve changed it to paying to test a game, paying large amounts to keep people out, paying large amounts to match Kickstarter tiers and all manner of corruptions of the original idea and after all these years in the games business it should come as no surprise to anyone that it’s something that would also be co-opted by big box in some way. And this is it. EA are bringing their own EA. (Handily, having Origin in the wings means they don’t have to worry about how they’re going to work this too, right?)

  • I can’t wait for Grand Theft Auto 5 to come to PC. Not for the missions, which I still find tiresome, but for the world and for the inevitable hacked-in mods. Andy Kelly over at PC Gamer aids my excitement by picking apart the E3 trailer for anything that’s new or different (or the same but still great) for the coming re-release:

    The next few shots (0:17) show a lumber mill, a stone quarry, and a factory, with workers going about their daily lives: nosing through clipboards, driving dump trucks, and taking coffee breaks. The variety of pedestrians in the world is dizzying, and you can interact with all of them—hikers, bodybuilders, drunks, pensioners, bikers. I spent a good few hours just wandering the streets talking to people. Insult a group of gangbangers on a street corner in the rough part of town and they’ll pull their guns. Do the same to a yuppie downtown and he’ll fling his coffee in the air and run away shrieking.

  • Last week I linked to Jon Blyth’s talk from Reads Like A 7, but there was more games-related writing read aloud at the London event. Ed Stern is a writer of multiplayergames, and so that’s what he gave a talk about. Sort of. It’s funny in the details:
  • Realising you can call an objective “Cargo Controls” rather than “Container Controls” can genuinely make your day because it saves you four characters. As can recalling that if you give your games’ objectives, vehicles and weapons names with Latin or Greek roots, they’re less likely to change or require more characters when translated, at least in Western languages, and how in hell are you going to know what they’ve changed in the languages you can neither speak nor read?

  • Most console games also find their way to PC, giving us ample opportunity to write about them. The exception is Nintendo, whose E3 haul was as idiosyncratic as ever. Oli Welsh at Eurogamer argues that they the company won E3 on their own terms:
  • Waiting in the wings for E3 2014, it turned out. Nintendo has had a very good week. It has done more than answer critics like me that innovation still runs in its blood, and reassure fans like me that the next Zelda will be totally awesome. It has shown fussy old Nintendo starting to think and act like a 2014 video game company. It has addressed the gaming community directly in a way that made its rivals and their noisy live stage shows look old-fashioned and wasteful. Last year, Nintendo’s retreat from the annual press conference popularity contest seemed like an admission of defeat. This year, it looked like tactical smarts and forward thinking. Nintendo has come bang up to date.

    Sunny weather demands hip hop, so music this week is Bonita Applebum.

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    Graham Smith

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