The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for exploring the world via the medium of Google Earth, and wondering what life would be like as the sole inhabitant and proprietor of PhinDeli Town Buford, Wyoming.

  • Forbes’ profile of Notch, based around an exclusive interview, carries an occasional finger-wagging tone but contains some interesting thoughts.
  • So with well over half his life ahead of him, the man who created an entire universe, whose persona was synonymous with it and who received the wrath of his community for abandoning it, must now figure out exactly who he is.

    The results so far are unimpressive, as he’s mostly acted like a dog chasing cars.

  • Keith Stuart’s response, over at The Guardian, is a moving piece about the role Minecraft played in giving “a voice” to Stuart’s autistic son.
  • I’d introduced Zac and his younger brother Albie to a few games beforehand. Zac loved the open-world racer Burnout Paradise, which allowed him to drive freely through a huge city, smashing into things and leaping over ramps. But then I brought the Xbox version of Minecraft home, and watching Zac play, it was like a light switching on. He just got it. He got that he had to mine for materials and chop down trees to make a home; he knew that when night fell he had to get inside to avoid the zombies. Within its clearly defined rules and systems, Minecraft provided a creative structure that freed him. I was elated.

  • On a related theme, Kent Sheely writes about games as tools for self-care in the first of a series of columns titled Alt+Home.
  • There have been numerous studies on the effects that video games have on human behavior. Most of these experiments have focused on attempting to prove a correlation between game violence and destructive behavior, but frequently overlook the opposite end of the spectrum: Games as meditative and transcendental tools for self-care.

  • There are plenty of stories about crunch and poor working conditions in major studios, but Hannah Nicklin has written about the challenges facing freelance independent developers, who often push themselves too hard and burn out.
  • Rest is hard, it’s easy as a freelancer to overcompensate for what looks like a low work time and end up with too much; it’s hard to make space in your home to rest when it’s also your work place; you enjoy what you make and do, it’s enjoyable, you care about it, you’re lucky – so lucky – to be able to do it, so it becomes hard to ever ever stop.

  • A short piece – and it’s news rather than an essay – but Paradox’s release of EU IV DLC to recognise International Women’s Day is a fine thing.
  • Thomas Johansson, the head of Paradox Development Studio, says that this DLC does something important for the company’s flagship title. “It’s no surprise that the role of women in history isn’t as well known as that of men,” Johansson says. “Europa Universalis, admittedly, hasn’t done a lot to foreground their contributions. We thought that International Women’s Day was the best time to do a little bit to help balance the scales and introduce our audience to some very interesting people.”

  • One of my favourite games of recent times is the subject of a postmortem over at Gamasutra. It’s Sunless Sea and the excellent article is the work of Failbetter co-founder and Chief Narrative Officer Alexis Kennedy.
  • It’s a very Failbetter game: distinctive, untidy, dark, daft, meticulously detailed, with an awful lot of carefully written words. We’ve been around for five years, and we’ve established our voice and our vision. But Sunless Sea was also our first actual videogame, after years of making only browser games.

    So although it wasn’t our first rodeo, it was… um… our first fish rodeo. I don’t really know how rodeos work. We don’t have them in the UK. This metaphor’s not working out. So let’s just say it was at the same time both well-explored territory, and a gigantic learning experience.

    Spring is in the air and Spring Training is in full swing. Every year, I surprise British friends by losing myself in Major League Baseball in the months between March and September (I don’t support a franchise likely to go deep in the post-season. EVER). The world’s best baseball sim Out Of The Park Baseball is running a championship tournament at the moment and the AARs are a great read, though intimidatingly heavy on ‘ball lingo for the uninitiated. Part one is here and the tournament continues.

    OOTP PR and Marketing Manager Brad Cook tweeted that he’s going with OTBA, but I think he just has a thing for squirrels … especially ones that wear crowns. I think OTBA could be a fun team to watch through this tournament but I also believe The Show is one of the most complete rosters in the GCL. I’m taking The Show here.

  • Luke Plunkett remembers Maxis.
  • EA’s purchase of Maxis marked a shift in the studio’s focus and fortunes. Co-founder Jeff Braun took his EA buyout money and left, nearly half of the company’s original employees were laid off by Electronic Arts, and Maxis’ attentions over the next decade would converge on three things: SimCity, The Sims, and an experimental god game called Spore.

  • For a stonking great memorial to the dreams and designs of Will Wright, look back to this remarkable 2006 New Yorker feature. I can’t help but mourn the timeline in which Spore became a foundation for the modern Maxis.
  • When I walked into his office, Wright jumped up and, after shaking my hand, said, “Here, try this, um, it’s this really cool toy I found recently,” and handed me a wireless controller for a small robotic tank that was sitting on the floor. It was facing another tank, which Wright was controlling. He started moving his tank around and shooting mine, watching me curiously, waiting to see how long it would take me to understand what was going on. I felt an odd tingling sensation in my hands, but I didn’t pay any attention to it at first. Eventually, I realized that I was getting shocked: every time Wright’s tank shot mine, an electric charge passed from the controller into my hands.

    Oh, and there’s nothing here yet, but Laura Hudson and Leigh Alexander have a new website about games, created in collaboration with Boing Boing. One to bookmark, perhaps.

Music this week takes in the meticulous drumming of Buddy Rich (yeah, I just watched Whiplash), and the gorgeous and slightly spooky Never Have I Ever by Nicolas Jaar and Will Epstein.

54 Comments

    • AUS_Doug says:

      I honestly expected that to link to a Hitman article.

      “When I learnt that even a bald man could become a terrifying assassin it gave me the confidence to go out and meet new people.”

      • Josh W says:

        “I realised that without hair, you are free to be anyone you want, I could be a security guard one week and a waiter the next.”

  1. thedosbox says:

    Every year, I surprise British friends by losing myself in Major League Baseball in the months between March and September (I don’t support a franchise likely to go deep in the post-season. EVER)

    So you’re a Cubs fan? :D

    Good to see the Guardian piece on Minecraft get some more love. A warning for those who haven’t read it yet – you may find the air suddenly got very dusty.

  2. Orija says:

    As an ignorant third-worlder I’d like to know whether incidents of autism in kids are higher in developed countries or whether it’s just poor countries being worse at giving them societal representation. In my entire life I’ve only met one autistic person.

    • stonetoes says:

      I can imagine that a lack of diagnosis is very possible. An example of this is how girls are supposedly under-diagnosed compared to boys.

      • Heliocentric says:

        I had a friend who had a daughter who was clearly as autistic as my two sons, but because she was affectionate and gentle they were sure everything was normal. Eventually they got bitter their child wasn’t developing severed ties with my elder child who was their daughters best friend and forced them to keep apart… I guess they thought my son was holding her back. My son lost a friend, but it’s their daughter I pitty the most, her parents are ashamed of her and are hiding from the obvious.

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          Grizzly says:

          My younger brother is also autistic, and he more or less suffers from the same problem. In this case, however, it’s not his parents that are holding him back, it’s himself. He has this nebelous goal of “being normal” and since I always was the weird one (and the example of the “autistic person” for both our teachers and our parents, which is why the diagnosis came very late whilst it came very early in my casE), I geuss part of him dislikes that, if he admits he’s autistic, he admits that he is like me in a way – and thus not “normal”.

          And I never got that. I never got it when people demanded it of me and were willing to bully me into oblivion to get it that way, and I still don’t understand it now. I know people esentially require boxes to put things in. Thinking in compartments allows one to grasp a complex situation much better then trying to take in all the details individually – If you do the latter, you get something known as “Information overload”, which the book “The mystery of a dog in the night time” explains very neatly. Is there a fear of having to treat people differently or a fear of being treated differently yourself? But why? Is it that important to maintain such a tight control over your own (or in Helio’s case, your child’s) social interactions?

          • joa says:

            Is it really so shocking? People want to be treated with respect and warmth, and not to be held at arms length and have other people be uncomfortable around them. This is why we all try to be as ‘normal’ as possible, and to fit in as best we can.

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            Grizzly says:

            The issue is more here that everyone else is kept at arm’s length rather then vice-versa.

          • Heliocentric says:

            Yes, indeed Joa, how dare those disabled people make us able folks feel uncomfortable. Who do they think they are?

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      Phasma Felis says:

      You have very likely met more than that and not realized it. Autism is a broad spectrum; we’re not all mute and withdrawn and unable to care for ourselves. At the higher-functioning end, we still tend to be introverted, socially awkward, hypersensitive to certain stimuli, and prone to odd obsessions, but with the right parents and teachers we can manage to have college degrees and jobs and social lives. A lot of the stereotypes of nerds and techies look like a list of autism symptoms.

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      Grizzly says:

      It’s very much the latter. Autism is a relatively ‘new’ concept in pscyhology and has been getting attention only recently (basically the past 15 years). As an autistic person myself, however, I do also suspect that at the very least Dutch culture has evolved in a direction that makes autistic traits stand out a bit more. There seems a higher priority on ‘selling yourself’ in our society, whilst an autistic person prefers his own little niche in which they can excell – which is probably why autistic people are often found in the IT field or on gaming websites (*waves*).

    • valrus says:

      There is also evidence for the former, though; Somali-Canadian children have very high rates of autism, that other Somali communities (like ones in Somalia), and earlier generations in their own community, do not, suggesting both genetic and environmental factors.

      (While it’s probable that the Canadian medical system is better than many at diagnosing autism, and autism is more well-publicized in Canada, I don’t think it’s likely that it’s just that. I think I remember that the Somali-Canadian autism rates were known in that community before it came to wider attention, that the community of mothers noticed an alarmingly high rate at which their children were getting “the silent sickness”.)

  3. Anthile says:

    I thought Ars technica’s Steam Gauge: Measuring the most popular Steam games of 2014 was very interesting. I had never even heard of many games listed.

    Music of the week is still Steven Wilson’s Hand Cannot Erase.

    • Anthile says:

      Ugh, the missing edit button is figuratively killing me.

      • James says:

        We’ll just have to do the next best thing: make a time machine and go back to when you first wrote it.

    • RARARA says:

      You weren’t kidding. I’ve apparently never heard of the most popular game on Steam.

      Though I’m not surprised that an F2P game that’s basically DayZ+Minecraft is printing money – printing money for a 16 year old dev.

      • ZPG Lazarus says:

        This

        Unturned
        Release Date: 7/7/14
        Owners: 12,226,095

        Is this real life? How did some subterranean Pokemon’esque phenomenon happen under our noses?

      • bill says:

        HAH! I am trendy again, for I have heard of it!

        I do, in fact, have it in my steam library. I heard about it here. A free mix of minecraft and day-z.

        I have never played any of this new batch of survival games, and I’d been wanting to try out Day-Z / Minecraft / The Forest etc.. as they seem to be the next big thing. But I have a big list of unplayed games and I wasn’t sure if i’d actually like them, and therefore I hadn’t ever paid for one.

        So I downloaded Unturned. (free. Early access. takes 2 mins on steam) and played it for an hour or two one evening. I haven’t ever played it again.

        It wasn’t terrible, it was just kinda dull.
        I’m not sure if it’s still early access, or if it’s still free or if it has any way to spend money yet, but it’d be interesting to know how many other players did the same as me… downloaded it and then mostly ignored it.

      • bill says:

        It’s also worth bearing in mind that only 6 of the top 20 “sellers” were paid games. The chart further down the page that excludes Free-to-play games looks a lot more like you’d expect.

    • Turkey says:

      It’s comforting to see the ridiculous owned to unplayed ratio for Civ:BE. Makes me feel good about the fact that I’m not the only one who gets hyped by the idea of Civ games, but is too intimidated by strategy games to actually play them.

    • draglikepull says:

      I’m kind of skeptical of the numbers in that piece. They just look wrong. Games like Divinity: OS that spent long periods of time at or near Steam’s best-seller charts aren’t on the list at all, while games like Don’t Starve Together are apparently among the most popular on the entire platform? The Binding of Isaac re-release outsold the latest Borderlands? The numbers just don’t make sense.

  4. helmickdarian says:

    $89 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And i get surly a chek of $1260……0 whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids.
    Here is what i did
    ✒✒✒✒✒✒ http://www.jobsaudit.com

  5. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Wow, that Forbes article is obnoxious. Markus made a game, it got unexpectedly popular, and eventually he decided running a company wasn’t for him. He was fortunate enough to be able to sell the company for an enormous sum.

    The author is wagging his finger because Markus hasn’t done much productive for FOUR WHOLE MONTHS since he sold the company. Oh noes. Trying to paint him as some kind of villain for the occasional jokey tweet. He’s just this guy who got rich. He seems nicer than many many others. Who really cares what he’s doing now?

    • pepperfez says:

      Obnoxious is pretty much Forbes house style.

    • daimonahte says:

      I don’t think Forbes are able to wrap their heads around a rich guy who doesn’t immediately start trying to work out how to make himself richer. How dare he abandon the capitalist way!

      • honuk says:

        yeah, he sure abandoned that capitalist way when he purchased one of the most expensive houses ever made on a whim and then made nightly trips to vegas where he spent 200k to get blitzed. doesn’t sound like a rich guy at all.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s interesting to contrast with the Hannah Nicklin article about taking downtime.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      How on earth did you read that as a hit piece? Did you just read the two-sentence excerpt from the post? It’s a pretty even-handed character piece. The most finger-wagging parts are when he’s doing actual rich-douchebag things like blowing $180,000 a night clubbing. But even then they’re not painting him as a shallow, dissipated asshole, but as a guy who life went somewhere he never expected, and he hasn’t quite figured out where he’s going yet.

    • Ryuuga says:

      Yeah, I don’t get the hate from Forbes. Interesting read, but boy did they impose a heap of their values on him. So he’s rich and wants to take a break from working? So what, isn’t that natural after having lived under high pressure for a long time?

      • pepperfez says:

        Nope. Once you’re a billionaire you’re supposed to start a Super PAC calling for lower marginal tax rates and denying the existence of climate change. Again, Forbes house style.

      • KevinLew says:

        I’m still trying to understand where the “hatchet job” was on this story. The writer is a little critical at points, but the facts speak for themselves. Markus Persson is a young developer that created a phenomenon that can’t even be described. In the end, he sold the company for billions of dollars, and he has immediately went down the path of spending it on a lavish house and expensive vacations. He’s founded another company but they don’t have any plans. If anything, he’s doing the same things that spoiled rich kids do, and the writer calls him out on it. It’s not bad journalism, character assassination, or Internet bullying to point out these things. For example, spending almost $200,000 on a single vacation/gambling spree isn’t exactly common, even for Hollywood celebrities, and it is certainly evidence that having tons of money DOES change people.

  6. LionsPhil says:

    >Notch was working for the Crush lot when he started work on Minecraft

    I’m amazed they didn’t lawyer him harder with claims that they owned it.

    What this Forbes article does leave out is that, once upon a time, Notch claimed Minecraft would be open-sourced when he was done with it. That possibilty looks decidedly dead.

    • Phil says:

      Open source equivalents to Minecraft exist. You can play them right now…

      • LionsPhil says:

        Sure, and I do—we’ve got a Minetest server set up for lunchbreaks at work.

      • pepperfez says:

        I’ve wondered about that: Is there anything crucial missing from those? Like, is, e.g., the world generation less robust?

        • LionsPhil says:

          Minetest’s worldgen is pretty amazing; the fact it’s unlimited in all three dimensions means you can lose hours to exploring massive underground cave complexes.

          Obvious shortcomings of it relative to Minecraft are no mobs (although there are mods that add them, and “mods” in this context are well-supported pluggable components—the base game is made of them), no redstone (mod, again), and nothing like the Nether or other later-game content. (There may be mods that do something about this, I don’t know; I can’t really imagine how you’d do the Nether without engine changes. Of course being open source “engine changes” are open to anyone to make.)

      • LionsPhil says:

        I wish post editing were back.

        Anyway, the point I meant to make was that Notch’s exit strategy used to be that he’d dump the game on “the community” for free. Instead he ended up dumping it on Microsoft for a lot of money. That is, I think, a bigger change of tune from the angles Forbes are going for than that he let go of it in the first place.

        (To be clear, I’m not accusing Notch of some grand betrayal. He never got a dollar out of me so owes me precisely bupkis, and now we have Minetest instead built on better tech.)

    • Orija says:

      Well, they hired the CEO of that place. Plus, the article specifically says they developed other games during their time their, not minecraft.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Reads it again.

        So it does. They took the CEO of the later company with them, though, not of proto-King.

  7. pepperfez says:

    From the EU4 forums:

    Great. Are you going to make a “Men in History” DLC as well? Unfortunately, the last men’s day was conviniently ignored, so this time it shouldn’t, right?

    I think I have just the thing you want. Here’s a link to the store page.

    • pepperfez says:

      I knew it was only a matter of time before I embarrassed myself with HTML and couldn’t fix it. The context of that is the EU4 project lead replying to the inevitable troll. For future reference, anyone know how I attribute quotes?

    • Jamesworkshop says:

      same structure as ‘white history month’, because the other 11 weren’t good enough.

      • Orija says:

        I donno, I find having a black history month incredibly patronizing and cynical. Black history is american history.

        And on the topic, I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing something special on Men’s Day, it’s the developer’s call. Not having the latter doesn’t mean that the former should be eschewed, and vice versa. It’s like those Hindus bitching about not having their festivals made a public holiday in New York after two Islamic festivals were recognized as such.

        • Jamesworkshop says:

          I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing something special on Men’s Day,

          nor do I, but that’s not the problem, addressing the fact about how you hear more about men than you do women, with a suggestion that we need to hear more about men, again. that’s the issue.

          • Orija says:

            I donno, man, maybe I’m just a doofus. But wouldn’t it be like not celebrating Christmas just cause everyone keeps talking about Jesus? Yes, men tend to be overrepresented, but I don’t see why both men and women can’t be celebrated. Again, I feel it is the developer’s call to do so.

          • Jamesworkshop says:

            I donno, man, maybe I’m just a doofus. But wouldn’t it be like not celebrating Christmas just cause everyone keeps talking about Jesus?

            ??????

            hey look, dlc for international women s day

            well, this cannot stand, better change the subject to men.

            Christmas is a religious holiday, centered around Christianity and thus Jesus, God and all that jazz.
            -how would that be changing the subject?

          • Distec says:

            Maybe we shouldn’t get too worked up about what some obscure idiot on the EU IV forums thinks. Who cares?

    • CKScientist says:

      This DLC is a nice idea in theory, but in practice it is terrible. The events are incredibly wordy and poorly written. They don’t match the style of the existing historical events at all.

      link to i.imgur.com

    • airmikee says:

      Because men have been suppressed and kept down by women for thousands of years, right?

  8. LionsPhil says:

    The best bit of that Kotaku article is the embedded video of 1997 physics in Streets of SimCity.

    I really remember it being so much better.

  9. SomeDuder says:

    I don’t usually care for the zooölogist’s approach to popular/big names in game development, but that New Yorker article was pretty damn great:

    “As people in the audience gasped at the vastness of the possibility space, Wright’s spaceship zoomed into the interstellar sandbox, looking for an uninhabited planet to colonize, just as young Will had promised his father he would.”

    Perfect ending. Of course, Spore itself couldn’t be anything but a disappointment as no company would spend the money on something that would be really revolutionary, but for that instant, people actually thought that this would be a Special Game®…