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The Sunday Papers

Featured post Good haul, this week.

Later today I will be disappearing into a pen-and-paper session of Numenera, to pretend to be a cross between E. Honda and B.A. Baracus. Unless those dice rolls fail me, in which case I will be Austin Powers-ing my way through it. In any case, better round up the week’s best games writing first.

  • Let’s begin this week by talking about YouTube. Mike Rose at Gamasutra asks, is YouTube killing the games press? This is filled with interesting quotes from developers on whether traditional websites or YouTubers helped sales of their game more, though it does focus the conversation on ‘which type of coverage is best for developers’ rather than what’s best for people playing and buying games.
  • Getting covered by a big-name YouTuber is now essentially the dream of many game developers. The publicity someone like TotalBiscuit, NerdCubed or Northernlion can bring you compared to mainstay consumer websites like IGN, GameSpot and Game Informer is becoming increasingly significant.

    A year ago, I would have advised any developer to get in touch with as many press outlets as possible, as soon as possible. I still advise this now, but with the following caveat: You’re doing so to get the attention of YouTubers.

  • One of the people fighting the good fight is Kim Richards at Yogscast, who has written a heartfelt post about the petty fight between words and video, and the too-casual dismissal by peers and viewers. You should check out her channel, too.
  • And then there’s the ever bubbling argument about WORDS VS VIDEO, which to be honest, breaks my heart. Mainly because I’ve spanned both professions in my seven year career in the games industry. I really don’t understand this need for division and boundaries, for the hatred and complaint. As a friend said recently – you get good writers and bad writers. You get good YouTubers and bad YouTubers. Please don’t tar us all with the same brush. I think that sometimes, it’s very easy for people to forget the amount effort, drive, passion and sheer hard work that goes into what we do. Communication is key. Why not talk to us, rather than snipe from Twitter accounts? People should always talk to each other, not at each other.

  • In search of YouTubers who provide careful analysis of videogame design? Try the LevelHead series, which picks apart levels in various indie games to uncover its strengths. I’m particularly fond of this examination of a single 1001 Spikes level.
  • I find most games-that-weren’t-made stories pretty tedious, but this is a kind of pre-history: before CD Projekt Red made The Witcher, there was another game in-production based on the same books, led by Adrian Chmielarz, best known as the design lead on Bulletstorm. Robert Purchese at Eurogamer tells the story:

    Money changed hands – “good money for Poland in 1997”, “ridiculous” by any other standards – and the licence was signed. Sapkowski took the money and kept to himself, which was something Chmielarz at first interpreted as ‘giving space’, and then – after a number of unanswered letters (Sapkowski didn’t do email) – as ‘he doesn’t give a s***’.

    “Honestly, at that time, he just didn’t care about games at all. I think he thought something like this: ‘Extra money is coming my way. Nobody cares about games so it’s not going to destroy my character in any way. Yeah, let’s do it.’ All it was was extra money to him which is fine – totally fine! I don’t blame him. That’s actually pretty smart.” After all, he got his money regardless of whether the game appeared. And it didn’t.

  • Most notably this week at Eurogamer, Tom ‘Tom Bramwell’ Bramwell admits that he is a sexist. This is a well-written piece, not really about Tom, and important for the pledge at the end. (Is it too pat to say me too?):
  • This is a realisation that has slowly dawned on me over the last few years. Without really meaning to do so, I have been going around saying and doing things that demean women and casually downplay the importance of issues of gender discrimination all my life. It’s a horrible thing to recognise about yourself, gradually or not. I try to be a generous and caring person and I am pretty sensitive, so the idea that I have been ignorantly treating half of the people I know and love in this way makes me feel awful.

  • My only window into the Twine community is through the writings of other people, so I don’t know the veracity of anything included within Electron Dance’s latest article. But it is interesting, and sounds pretty much like every other community I’ve ever been a part of:
  • Unfortunately, as someone who has used Twine to teach and continues to promote it as a tool for classrooms despite his own frequent lack of faith, this means these issues comes up faster than they would for other tools, engines, or software libraries. The reality for most people using Twine is that there is often a very real cultural war being fought over who gets to create and how they label their creations. Many of the frontline battles for power to dictate and manipulate definitions have been, are currently, and probably will continue to be fought, discussed, and argued around Twine in the coming years.

  • Andrew Pellerano at Gamasutra writes an interesting article about the danger of game options, and argues that offering choice in some instances serves to make them less accessible, not more, by fracturing the playerbase. The proposed solution suggests not, but can this same criticism be applied to multiplayer games less concerned with being competitive?:
  • That setting legitimizes the scrub’s complaint. They no longer have to learn. Instead they can say: “if the game lets you turn off seeking arrows, then it must be a valid way to play.” In their mind, they have made TowerFall a more expert game by removing auto-aim for babies. In reality, they have undermined a core design tenet of the game. Remember that TowerFall only wishes to be a game about positioning and head games. It does not wish to be about parabolic trajectory simulation.

    When you allow players to undermine core design tenets, you fracture your player base. In TowerFall’s case, you get experts who play with seeking arrows and experts who play without. Every kill now comes with a caveat: “In my rules that wouldn’t kill me.” The statement drips with superiority. No middle ground will ever be found between these players, they are simply incompatible.

  • Duncan Harris’ Dead End Thrills column might have come to an end at RPS, but his good work continues on his own site. Recently he spoke to the designers of SUPERHOT (SUPER. HOT.) about the art design of their slow-motion bulletscapes:
  • Iwanicki: One of the very first inspirations for SUPERHOT was to make it more like theatre. We knew we had limited resources, so that was the best reference. The modern artistic theatre is very strange; once movies were invented it had to go a different, more symbolic way. So, if you have a helicopter in a scene, you don’t bring the helicopter into it because you can’t afford to. You have a shadow, you have a sound, even shooting from the helicopter – but it’s told with subtle cues. It’s like the shark in Jaws.

    Surma: Though sometimes you do have to show it. There’s one level with the helicopter where it’s not seen, but then this is a game about stopping time. The helicopter has a rotor that can move and then stop when you stop time – how could we not have that? You stand still and you see the blades, the shadow of it crawling through the geometry of the level – awesome stuff. Some sort of modelling is necessary there.

  • Rainbow Six Siege is very much My Kind Of Thing, so I was excited before reading this PC Gamer interview with one of its designers. Then, at times, perplexed while reading it:
  • PCG: Are there going to be objectives other than hostage extraction?

    Witts: It’s not going to be our only game mode. That’s not to say there won’t be different hostages. Right now we have a feature called the “living hostage,” so she reacts to the environment around her. As an explosion goes off, she shields herself a bit. Then a gunfight happens around her and she shields herself and stuff. She really reacts to the environment and we want to stress that further in further iterations. If we have any other type of hostages, we can call her [the hostage NPC shown at E3] Olivia, maybe we have a hostage named Bob or something, and Bob reacts maybe a little differently than her, but the gameplay’s overall the same. The hostage rescue, we can have some creativity there, but any other game modes we’re going to have, we are going to revisit previous game modes people love about the series and stress them and bring them to the forefront.

  • Some people experience trauma and afterwards are traumatised. Weak asses. Cool people experience trauma and then become who they were meant to be. Leigh Alexandar at Gamasutra nails this and many of the other problems with the E3 Tomb Raider trailer. “What did they do to you?: Our women heroes problem.”
  • “I know it’s upsetting, what you’ve been through,” whispers another treatment figure to the heroine of Infamous: First Light, another game with a ponytailed heroine shown at E3 2014 last night. Like Lara, she wears a cozy hoodie, curls in on herself. We like to peek through the windows and behind the shower curtains and into the doctor’s appointments of our fragile heroines and voyeuristically thrill at their damage, looking forward to their moments of revelation and revenge.

    It seems that when you want to make a woman into a hero, you hurt her first. When you want to make a man into a hero, you hurt… also a woman first.

  • Where can I, mysterious woman, sit alone at a bar in my best dress and drink?
  • I am in love with the romanticism of BBC history, so this slideshow is all too brief.
  • Bush House, the Central London building that served, for some seventy years, as the home of the BBC World Service, was originally a trade center. Built in the early nineteen-twenties, it was commissioned and financed by the American industrialist Irving T. Bush, designed by the American architect Harvey Wiley Corbett, and dedicated “to the friendship of English-speaking peoples.”

  • It’s terrifying how easily people are compelled towards conformity.
  • Every Cloudface GIF on a single page.
  • Edit: Update to include Simon Parkin’s Kiss That Changed Video Games from the New Yorker. It’s the story of how same-sex relationships came to be included in the first game:
  • During The Sims’s protracted development, the team had debated whether to permit same-sex relationships in the game. If this digital petri dish was to accurately model all aspects of human life, from work to play and love, it was natural that it would facilitate gay relationships. But there was also fear about how such a feature might adversely affect the game. “No other game had facilitated same-sex relationships before—at least, to this extent—and some people figured that maybe we weren’t the ideal ones to be first, as this was a game that E.A. really didn’t want to begin with,” Barret told me. “It felt to me like a fear thing.” After going back and forth for several months, the team finally decided to leave same-sex relationships out of the game code.

  • Relevant: this post from a Reddit user about what The Sims meant to them as a teenager. This is why we want more diverse and inclusive games.
  • Music this week is BOY. Their sole album came out in 2011 but I only just discovered it, and it’s Feisty. As in, it’s reminiscent of the work of Leslie Feist. Do listen.

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