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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for ingesting mystery (legal) substances in the name of science. Before we consume mystery, let’s consume the week’s best writing about videogames.

  • The BBC ran an article this past week about sound design in videogames, talking about Alien: Isolation, FIFA, and the hard work that goes into absorbing you in a location.
  • “So, we have a value called Stealth, which tells us at any given moment how stealthy the player is being – how much noise they are making, how close they are to an enemy, the enemy’s awareness of the player.

    “We use that to both change the music and the mix. We will lower the atmosphere and raise up the Alien’s sounds and Ripley’s breathing rate.

    “You don’t want to be making any noise at that point, so we’ll start to raise up your sounds a little bit just to put you on edge.”

  • Nathan has disembarked from the good ship RPS, but he wrote this past week over at Kotaku about the messy story behind YouTuber’s taking money for game coverage. The spark that prompted the story is the recent situation with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor:
  • Before Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor’s release, a curious thing happened: critics on YouTube (and some in the traditional press) tried to obtain early PC copies for review, but couldn’t. And yet, YouTube entertainers were able to—if they agreed to terms like, “videos will promote positive sentiment about the game.”

  • Also on Kotaku, Stephen Totilo writes about the site’s decision to focus less on games pre-release, and more on games in the months and years during which people are actually playing them:
  • The message is clear: A game doesn’t stop being interesting once it has been released. What happens to games after they come out—what gamers do with the games they play—matters. It’s exciting. It’s interesting. It’s part of a game’s life. It’s something we should be covering not haphazardly but with an institutional intent to make it a priority.

  • Which prompted me to look out a copy of this old open letter then-editor of PC Gamer Mark Donald wrote to the PC games community, stating essentially the same thing. Seeing this letter prompted me to submit my first work to PCG, which became my first paid-for piece of writing:
  • ‘m trying to create a magazine that communicates the incredible experiences gamers have. A magazine that reports on the amazing transformations that dedicated communities have wrought upon the games they love. I think such a magazine would print articles about the destruction of Kerafyrm The Sleeper in Everquest. It would report on the morphing of games like Grand Prix Legends and Interstate 82. It could relate the tale of a dramatic duel in Jedi Knight 2 or cover the phenomenon of swoop bike races in Star Wars Galaxies. Anything at all. Single-player gaming, multi-player gaming, modding, MUDs, indy games. The building of the Space Station in There, the development of unique in-game body language. A well-argued opinion piece on the state of videogame interfaces. Crazy antics on stunt servers or a simple essay on how a game stirred an individual’s emotions.

  • At Firaxicon, the first ever Firaxis convention, Sid Meier and Jake Solomon talked about Meier’s lengthy career within the industry. The Civilization designer had interesting things to say as always, as reported by GameIndustry.biz:
  • “I’m certainly not in favor of any sort of censorship – we’re artists, we’re creative and we should be able to do what we want. On the other hand, it’s hard to say our games are immersive and grab people, allow them to participate and make them the stars, and then say that there’s no impact, or that it doesn’t affect them. So I think we have to walk that line. I think people know the difference between fantasy and reality – gamers are very mature and intelligent people. However, whatever we can do to create a positive climate we should do,” he said, after noting that his games never “glorified violence.”

  • Star Citizen strikes me as the most pure expression of videogame-systems-as-consumerism. It’s a game in which you can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars buying spaceships, and items for spaceships, for a game which does not yet really exist. In buying those objects, you’re creating the game in your mind; a communal fantasy constructed between you and all the other shoppers. Eurogamer’s look at the game’s grey market – the re-selling of objects outside the game – is interesting.
  • The Star Citizen grey market emerged out of a couple of important design decisions by CIG. One, the developer sells certain ships for a limited time or in limited numbers, creating a demand for products that aren’t available to all players at all times. Two, in the final game your ships can be destroyed. The answer? In-universe insurance that protects players’ investments. It’s clear that when it comes to Star Citizen’s virtual spaceships, the stakes are high.

  • Alice writing this past week about Kane & Lynch 2 reminded me of this old piece by former journalist Michael Gapper:
  • Sooner or later – likely sooner, at some point in level one – a fleeing bystander will catch a bullet. The weapons are ferocious and scattershot, the way they would be in the hands of an unskilled clown. Inaccuracy is built in and compensated for. It was clearly a conscious decision to exclude the traditional ‘tightening’ reticle when you squeeze the left trigger; the guns are supposed to be indiscriminate. You’re supposed to miss; innocent people are supposed to die.

  • Richard Cobbett’s Saturday Crapshoot has come to an end. Which is terribly sad for sentimental reasons, though Richard is starting a new column for PCG soon. You can read more thoughts on the series from Richard here, and there’s still over 200 in the archive if you’ve never read them or missed any.
  • It’s been a really awesome series to write though, not least because it’s been totally unsupervised – I picked the games, I wrote whatever I wanted about the games, and I stuck them online without them going through any approvals or editing. When I did the videos, I just did the videos. Doing one as a text adventure was entirely that doing a text adventure seemed funny the night before, and I typically wrote all of them on the night before they went live. It’s not a wise approach to professional writing, but it’s quite a good one for humour – a deadline that leaves no time for second-guessing often leading to far crazier, wackier ideas. It seemed to work out.

  • Andy Kelly’s Other Places series continues to highlight the beauty of game worlds. He posted one of Alien: Isolation this past week – though it’s got spoilers, so I haven’t watched it – along with this visit to The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter.
  • Music this week is lopsided, because one of the ears of my headphones broke. But you can take Music of Bleak Origin by Necro Deathmort and tell me what’s on the right channel.

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    Graham Smith

    Editor-in-chief

    Graham is to blame for all this.

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