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The Sunday Papers

A web log

Featured post

Sundays are for returning, after a GDC-enforced absence, to compiling lists of links to the week’s finest games writing. It’s nice to read, isn’t it?

  • Leigh Alexander and Laura Hudson launched Offworld this past week, reviving Boing Boing’s videogame wing as a website dedicated to those people most ignored by most other gaming sites. I am not one of those people, but I’m enjoying it all the same. Start anywhere.
  • Except like many of the items of poorly-translated software floating around the internet in the ’90s and ’00s, it was also deeply weird: You can raise your daughter to be several varieties of sex worker or courtesan, a laundry worker, a widow, a minstrel, a warrior or nearly any number of things, with the reward at the end a flirtatious portrait and a brief blurb on her life. Attaining actual princess-hood, through marriage to a prince, is a punishingly rare outcome.

  • Then read the article linked within the Offworld post quoted above, because you can’t ever read enough about either Princess Maker or Long Live The Queen, excellent games both.
  • The importance of playing as the princess herself is well-demonstrated in the pitfalls of GAINAX’s Princess Maker series. In interface and play style, it is the direct inspiration for Queen: the player sends their princesses to various classes over a set duration so that they may learn the skills to deal with various events and scenarios within the game. In Queen, the player acts for Princess Elodie, but in the Princess Maker games, the player is an adoptive father, often a war hero, blessed by the gods with the charge of a heavenly pre-teen. Player dad has a relationship with his princess. He can buy her gifts on her birthday to increase her affection. He may scold her if she gets too rebellious. In a creepily Pygmalion manner, player dad can mold the princess into a woman that falls in love with her father. Princess Maker games are still great in how many endings they offer and seeing the outcome of your parenting, though few involve your little girl actually becoming a princess: she can be a warrior, peasant, or one of several other occupations.

  • This has been sat at the top of the Sunday Papers GDoc for weeks now, waiting for me to find the time to watch and write about it. Bungie posted a lengthy video which goes deep on the level design of Destiny. I haven’t played the game, but I don’t need to in order to appreciate the effort that went into making its architecture.
  • Did this I link this before? I no longer recall, but it’s still in the hopper so here it is anyway: unless your site is about one thing, it’s about everything. I would add an addendum that would say, even if your site is about one thing, it probably still sounds just like all other the sites that are also only about that one thing.
  • The mix changes; Grantland is some more sports and a little less news and whatever intern is currently writing the “Bill Simmons” column. Slate is a little less sports and a little more politics and Troy Patterson endlessly writing the word “gentleman” into his Mead notebook in cursive while admiring his new glasses in the mirror. New York is a little of everything with some soothing noises to remind New Yorkers that they are very very important. The revamped New York Times Magazine is a lot of the same edited by people who think you can get more sexy Millenials to your website by adjusting the kerning on your font. The Atlantic is a lot of the same plus Ta-Nehisi Coates plus Coates’s creepshow commenters asking him to forgive their sins.

  • This is old, but I only recently saw it. The Manfred Macx Media Diet, which is Warren Ellis picking at bits of Charlie Stross’s Accelerando.
  • Everyone is writing post-mortems about GDC and healing and hope, but if you had to pick one, I’d go for Matt Lees over at Vice. Because I see kinship in his decision to skip the party and have a bath instead.
  • As a man walking around without any real sense of what he was looking for, I seemed to almost exclusively bump into people in bars who also didn’t really know why they were there. Myself and a fellow Brit had both inexplicably traipsed alone across town to enter a writing competition in a semi-awful sports bar. We were joined by two young Americans in ill-fitting suits. One was a software engineer, and the other looked alarmingly like a tiny version of Matthew Broderick.

  • John Harris, erstwhile write of a roguelile column at the departed GameSetWatch, has taken up the mantle again on his own blog. He starts by surveying the changes to the genre while he’s been away (it became suddenly enormously popular) and attempts to define exactly what a roguelike is.
  • Before, the closest to mainstream roguelikes were things like the Mystery Dungeon series, which were a stretch even in their native Japan, or the Diablo games. Now, it seems almost like every other new indie game on the Steam store is tagged roguelike, 108 of them as of this writing. Before our hiatus, Spelunky (one of the best real-time roguelike-inspired games) was a promising freeware creation. Now it’s available for Xbox 360, PS3, Vita, and Steam, has fascinated hundreds of thousands of players with its terrific procedurally-generated gameplay, and has been the focus of many livestreams and YouTube recordings by star players like BaerTaffy and Bananasaurus. That indicates, to me, that the lessons of roguelike games have gotten out to some extent, and even been embraced, and I find that heartening. And ToME, under the name Tles of Maj’Eyal, is there, and ADOM is coming, and Desktop Dungeons has been there for a while! But it’s not enough.

  • Road To Eternity: Part 1 is a preview of the documentary of the making of Pillars of Eternity. Which is a lot of ofs. Kickstarter is a great thing if you enjoy seeing how the sausage is made.
  • Speaking of sausage, Steve Hogarty is having lots of sex with men in videogames.
  • Casual groper Haru winds up working in a bar where he is gradually introduced to all of the cartoon men he intends to one-day pleasure using his hands, penis and mouth. An achingly slow plot begins to unfold as it’s revealed that the bar is actually a front for a cool-ass vigilante crime fighting / man-sexing group. It’s an overwritten succession of chapters that delays the filth, but ultimately enhances it with the natural porny frisson of personalities and context. You know, the same reason porn starts with a pizza being delivered or a toolbox being opened. You’ve got to establish a universe (of either pizza or tools) before the smut rolls in.

  • Speaking of how sausage and/or things being made, Patricia Hernandez spoke to some people about how videogame breasts are made (and why they can go wrong). I appreciate the technical detail in this.
  • Are any of these sorts of claims true, I wondered? Plenty of people theorize about why games often feature bad breast physics, but there is little hard information about the actual breast-creation process. After looking into it a bit, I found that many amateur developers seemed to genuinely have a problem figuring out how to tackle breast physics in their games. There are a startling number of forum posts and tutorials where people discuss the best ways to achieve good breast physics online. One person even created a four-part Powerpoint presentation titled “The Quest for Boob Jiggle In Unity.” People have developed specialized tools for other developers to use, to help demystify the enigma that is “how do breasts work.”

  • Unwinnable on fandom and how it has always warped perception and behaviour. I liked the Phantom Menace too, at first, though that was as much youth as anything else.
  • The Phantom Menace was a terrible movie, of course. Yet most of us who stumbled out of that theater that night – smart, well-educated college students, mostly studying in the arts – had no idea. We loved The Phantom Menace. We were in an altered state where our fandom had overridden the evidence of our senses. We hadn’t watched the atrocious, rambling, pointless movie George Lucas had made, we had seen the adventure we had been waiting for almost our entire lives. It was an illusion, a delusion. It didn’t last long.

  • Finding poignancy in simple or broken game systems might be Christopher Livingston’s superpower, and this piece on Cities Skylines for PC Gamer displays it well. What happens when you build a city designed for just a single house? An interesting glimpse at the game’s simulation, and a strange and interesting story at the same time.
  • As I’m scrolling around the map, I suddenly notice a little blue scooter parked at the curb near the house. Its info tag says it’s owned by Oscar Richardson. I’ve got a tenant! The scooter also tells me Oscar works at the town’s incineration plant. That means, essentially, he takes his own garbage to work and sets it on fire. He seems happy about it, though. I click on the house: along with Oscar, there is another adult and two teens. I’ve got a family! Now, to spy on them.

  • I added this next article to my Sunday Papers list before I’d even read it. Why? Because it’s Rich Stanton writing about Devil May Cry. A safe bet – and he’s right about DmC.
  • DmC took some of the best parts of the series’ combat system and used them in building a new one. At the same time this is a much more accessible and visually attractive game than any other in the series – a reflection not just of changing times, but also the fact that it needs new fans. The objection to this on principle is irrational, because the core of a third-person fighting system is scalability – these are games where, for every player, the value is found in the journey from neophyte to master. There is no contradiction between making an accessible fighter and a systems-driven skill game – no less a director than Hideki Kamiya went to enormous pains, in Bayonetta and The Wonderful 101, to offer difficulty modes for first-timers.

    Music this week is Grimes. A question: where can one find more of the grubby hooting that follows shortly after that timestamp-linked video?

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