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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for this and only this.

  • This was the best thing I read this week: a pixel artist renounces pixel art. It’s one of the creator’s of mobile game Auro talking about game art, communication, and how audiences and critics appraise certain styles of work. Or more specifically, how even incredible art and animation will be criticised if it fails to conform to meaningless and arbitrary technological buzzwords like “HD”. It’s a fun read, well illustrated.
  • Sometimes the word “pixelated” is used in a derogatory sense, and sometimes not. Either way, anyone who uses the word clearly doesn’t grasp the concept that pixel art is a deliberate, predetermined art style. And it’s not just with us. The Reviewer of the SNK fighter King of Fighters XIII over at IGN had this to say about the sprite work:

    “While they look a bit pixelated, the character models look quite good”-IGN review of KOF XIII

    This sprite is not “quite good.” It’s among the best 2D animation ever made in a video game. However good it is, it’s good in spite of it being “pixelated” according to many.

  • The New Yorker went long on No Man’s Sky, Hello Games attempt at procedurally generating a galaxy and filling it with the hopes and dreams of gamers everywhere. I liked the math and generation stuff in the back half.
  • When Murray wasn’t being pulled away from his computer, he worked on the terrain. He told me that he was always searching for ideas. Last year, he saw the film “Interstellar,” which features scenes of a lifeless snowy planet that “had some very perfect ‘mathlike’ terrain.” The next day, he developed formulas that would create similar crevasses. More recently, he had noticed geological formations that an artist had hand-designed for another video game, and realized that the algorithms of No Man’s Sky were not equipped to make them. The problem nagged at him, until he found an equation, published in 2003 by a Belgian plant geneticist named Johan Gielis. The simple equation can describe a large number of natural forms—the contours of diatoms, starfish, spiderwebs, shells, snowflakes, crystals. Even Gielis was amazed at the range when he plugged it into modelling software. “All these beautiful shapes came rolling out,” he told Nature. “It seemed too good to be true—I spent two years thinking, What did I do wrong? and How come no one else has discovered it?” Gielis called his equation the Superformula.

  • I stumbled across this by accident, but it looks like Games Radar+ have adopted the long-running PC Gamer feature Why I Love. I enjoyed this piece by Susan Arendt on why she loves games that keep playing without her. Me too. The piece focuses on mobile games like Neko Atsume’s cat collecting, but wouldn’t it be great if Dwarf Fortress had a kind of screensaver mode?
  • What I enjoy about Neko Atsume is that it’s not something you watch constantly. You set up your garden and check in from time to time to see who’s visited and what they’ve done while they were there. The cats come and go throughout the day whether you have the game open or not, living out their kitty lives with little regard for your attentions, rather a lot like real cats. Opening up the game randomly throughout my day, I see which cats have come to the garden, and it’s like being visited by tiny, furry friends. Ah, I see Petunia stopped by and had a snuggle in the comfy cushion. And if I put out the yellow bowl of food? You can be sure Fatso is going to swing by and scarf it all down. I named the very first cat who showed up in my Neko Atsume after my real life cat who passed away last November, and every time I see that she’s stopped by, I smile. All of this activity happens when I’m not looking, and I wonder what the cats get up to when they’re not snoozing in my virtual garden. They play while I’m away, but I still feel connected to their goings-on, just the same.

  • This week in Articles Designed To Make You React On Social Media, Polygon’s Brian Crecente wrote about why videogame consoles are old-fashioned and should go away. There is an ounce of sense in there, buried.
  • During an age when games can be played on smartphones, tablets, computers, calculators, watches and just about any other device with silicon in it, having something that sits under your television so you can play games at home is not just unnecessary, it’s wasteful.

  • Offworld continue to do good work. This week, Jon Peterson writes about a time when law enforcement and government were even more baffled by computers, technology and videogames than they are now.
  • On January 17, 1980, FBI agents descended on a small business in Wisconsin to investigate a plot against the life of an American business executive in Beirut, Lebanon, named William Weatherby. The tip came to local law enforcement from a concerned citizen who had chanced on a written description of the conspiracy, which the police duly handed over to the FBI.

    When investigators arrived at the offices of this company, TSR Hobbies, they learned that William Weatherby did not exist: he was a non-player character in a new espionage role-playing game called Top Secret, which TSR was playtesting. This was easily demonstrated to the satisfaction of all parties, and the whole incident would certainly be forgotten today—except that it inevitably became part of TSR’s promotion for Top Secret. It was a spy game so realistic that even the FBI thought it was real.

  • Keith Stuart writes on The Guardian about why the stereotype of the lone male gamer needs to be destroyed.
  • I know of dozens of UK gaming events where players and developers get together to celebrate game culture. Wild Rumpus, GameCity, the forthcoming Feral Vector in Yorkshire. There are similar gatherings all around the world. I am certain there are still isolated individuals who play alone, but I am equally certain they are not representative. Games, increasingly, are not a hobby, they are a cultural force, no less or more than music and movies. They unite people – men, women, straight, gay, bi, trans – and they allow the dissemination of challenging ideas. Zimbardo told the interviewer that he wants to see games that are less about violence and more about co-operation – as if this is some kind of revelation. Minecraft, one of the biggest games in the world, has been doing this for five years. There are dozens of others. You want a positive community that challenges Zimbardo’s view of gaming? Look up (or just read about) the interactive fiction program, Twine.

  • Simon Parkin also appeared in The Guardian this week to write about EVE Online. It covers some familiar ground but with new insight, into the game, its players, and its future.
  • Although money was never the primary motivation – “I simply love the fire; there is something magical when you feel like it’s in your control,” she said – after a few years Dmytriievska turned semi-professional. She joined a circus troupe in her home city of Kiev, Ukraine to help support her university studies. She excelled, often performing to audiences of hundreds. In June 2007, the troupe began rehearsals for an interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Raven. As the backing music sounded out for the first time – a pipe organ, played rhythmically, as if calling people to worship, soon joined by galloping guitars and a furious drumbeat – Dmytriievska took to the stage. She began to dance. But her mind was not on the performance. As soon as she finished the routine she left the stage, walked up to her friend on the mixing desk and asked: “Where is that music from?”

    The track, he said, came from Eve Online, a science-fiction video game. It is, he explained, a game set in a vast galaxy comprised of tens of thousands of stars and planets, and inhabited by half a million or so people from around the world, who explore and do battle together daily via the internet. Dmytriievska returned home to see for herself.

  • Nintendo’s pre-E3 video is delivered in style.

Music this week is Prince’s Dirty Mind. I don’t know why, other than that it’s great and I remembered that it was great. It’s all on Spotify.

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Graham Smith

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