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The Sunday Papers

Good Wordread

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Sundays are for programming computer people to have ambition and fear, that you might later exploit their weaknesses for crime. But first we must gather the week’s best writing about games, as tradition demoands.

  • This was sent my way by Kieron and is excellent: on gaming and the need for communication between gamers with different playstyle. Focused inparticular on wargaming, but relevant to any kind of multiplayer gaming. If you want to play to win, tell your friends first. Warning: some brief discussion of abuse towards its end.
  • So, post-Xmas, in addition to candy-induced pre-diabetes, Sansa show up with a tiny beginner’s Tyranid force: thirty Termagaunts and a Tyrant. He didn’t like the wings and he doesn’t know any better, so he’s built it as a footslogger. He’s brought his little army – all painted in what looks like a mix of 10% emulsion, 15% Tipp-ex, 75% childish joy – and more enthusiasm than a puppy trapped of a basket of clothes which are warm from the dryer. See, he’s got his army sorted, for today, He Becomes A Man.

    Unlike Sansa, Joffrey is a Lannister, and so he’s got a lot more income. He, too, has brought his new Xmas army, but he knows exactlywhat he’s doing. He’s rocked up with 10 Grey Knight Paladins, a horrifying number of Psycannon, Draigo and an Imperial Knight. That’s right. For a half hour pick-up game at lunch, he’s done the equivalent of showing up to a playground fist fight with a ninety pound lump of plastic explosive carved into the shape of a giant middle finger.

  • Speaking of Kieron, he and Matt Sheret have started their own wargaming-dedicated site, Hipster Hammer. “The somewhat evangelical Warhammer ramblings of two men with facial hair and Sleater-Kinney record collections.” The buyer’s guides are useful for folks new to the hobby in that they tell you how to buy an army for fifty quid and explain dwarves with 30 Rock gifs (Kieron fed me that line), but I also like the Not A Manifesto that outlines the site’s approach to the subject matter. Welcoming – especially for someone like me who found Games Workshop a bit scary-in-the-way-of-pubs-full-of-locals as a kid.
  • I bristle at the phrase GrimDark, both in terms of its origins and how it’s used in conversation. As an abbreviation of Warhammer 40k’s famous tagline, it’s normally used to dismiss dark-for-the-sake-of-dark fiction. That it emerged from Warhammer shows how many people simply miss the joke.

    Warhammer is fucking hilarious.

    It is a maximialist universe that borrows liberally and blends from everywhere. It’s everything, often in the same model. It’s most obvious with the more chaotic models like aforementioned Goblin Fanatic and everything that emerges from Skavenblight, but even in the most straight faced (which, somewhat ironically, is Chaos) it’s still extremely silly.

  • My favourite thing in any roguelike is the unknown potions, so I’m firmly on John Harris’ side when he writes in defense of item identification systems. Includes examples of why the system makes for interesting experiences and of pitfalls to avoid when designing such a system.
  • This is the first level with Giant Ants (in some versions called Rattlesnakes). These can drain Strength (the sole attribute score) on a successful hit. Two more potions are found here, and two more scrolls, and a food ration. One of the potions is of the same type as the one found on Level 1 (they’re both “plaid,” however that works), and he also now has two of one type of scroll (they have the same title, something like “swerr mep”). Rodney makes the decision to test-ID one of the scrolls, hoping it might be Identify (the most common scroll). It is! He wisely uses it on the ring (the hardest kinds of item to figure out) and finds out it’s a ring of Teleportation. These are cursed and annoying, but potentially a lifesaver. He keeps it in his pack, but mentally notes when he runs out of room it’s high priority for trashing.

  • A comic about a homeless gamer and what makes a fan.
  • No, I stopped going to Ground Kontrol, but my little laptop had Jade Empire on it. The laptop served as good camouflage, allowing me to check my email in a coffee shop for two hours rather than sit there while the baristas gave me the stink-eye.

  • This Dwarf Fortress story, which was linked in the comments here earlier in the week, is incredible. It’s short and relatively uncomplicated but perfectly illustrates the way in which the game’s dedication to simulation results in compelling, emergent narrative. Involving dwarves, an angry camel and a fire titan:
  • As the drawbridges pull shut, I watch as Inod paces outside them, until finally, resigned to his fate, he makes a beeline for the approaching hill titan. He’s no warrior, but he’s going to collect his fifteen seconds in the spotlight. He doesn’t last five. The firestorm and its harbinger pull on ahead.

    At this point two things happen. One, the hill titan vanishes, engulfed by the smoke. Two, the mad one-humped camel from before has killed its merchant owner and tried to storm the fort, only to promptly trigger a cage trap and jail itself at the entrance. Febontak’s industrious haulers have moved the camel into a stockpile full of caged goblin theives, kobolds and assorted scavengers, freeloaders and vermin that plague the fort.

  • There is a good chance you’ve played Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving, but what of the older games in the Citizel Abel series or Brendon Chung’s other first-person mod work? Errant Signal traces Chung’s growth as a developer across each game in this video.
  • Dan Griliopoulos has run each party’s manifesto for the looming UK election through Democracy 3. How would the country fare under a UKIP government, a Green government, a Conservative government with a mandate? Find out via Simulection over at New Statesman.
  • The election is looming. I take a moment to look at the state of the country. On the upside, we’re hugely technologically advanced, thanks to my careful funding of robots and nanomachines, and relatively productive and green. On the downside, there’s lynch mobs in the streets, class warfare as society collapses, inner city riots, booming crime rates, luddite riots smashing those lovely new robots, and extreme nationalism (more about that when we do the Ukip manifesto.) Poverty has rocketed, equality plummeted, health collapsed, crime boomed, and generally the country has collapsed. Quite impressive in just five years!

  • A photo essay of Hello Games during the development of Joe Danger 2.
  • Robear loves you.
  • Music this week is definitely the new The Go! Team album, which I have listened to 25 times this past week. It’s all up on Spotify, but whet your appetite here.

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    Graham Smith

    Editor-in-chief

    Graham is to blame for all this.

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