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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for family to visit and probably to sneak in a game or two from the new football season. Not before we’ve round up the week’s best games writing, though.

  • Dungeon Hacks is a book by David L. Craddock about the making of seminal roguelikes including Hack, Angband and Rogue itself. Gamasutra recently ran an excerpt from chapter 5, which is as much about early computing and some forward thinking teachers as it is game creation. A great read:
  • Once the lab was up and running, Harvey invited his peers to drop by. Reactions ran the gamut. “You’d open the door of the room and hear kids yelling across the room to their friends and project partners, see some kids playing games, some just hanging out, and others hard at work with total concentration. Teachers who thought that, in a proper classroom, every kid is doing the same thing at the same time, quietly, hated it. But other, more progressive teachers loved it. I was amused that every teacher loved or hated it instantly, the moment they walked in, without asking questions.”

  • I was at Gamescom last week when Hannah Nicklin’s latest Psychogeography piece went up. Hannah also delivers these articles as talks at Videobrains, a regular event which features talks about games. If you’d like to learn more about the work of Holly Gramazio, featured in last week’s article, she recently delivered a talk at Videobrains of her own about risk assessment for physical games in public spaces. Alternatively, you might also enjoy this talk from the same event from Kate Gray about the connections between The Legend of Zelda and The Odyssey.
  • Finally, if you’re interested in Videobrains more generally, you might like this article on Midnight Resistance which interviews its organiser Jake Tucker and some recent participants.
  • “You know what’s great? Just having ladies sitting in the audience. Most of my best reactions from the two talks I have given here have been from the ladies, and I don’t know if they’re just more diverse in the sense that they’ve had different backgrounds and they’ve had to grow up being a lady, and they understand the things that I’m saying more because I say them in a special language only ladies can hear, or if it’s that they’re just so happy to see something different.”

  • The release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is just a couple of weeks away in consoleland, which means website editors everywhere are lining their nests with topical and SEO-friendly articles in preparation. Which is good because it means we get to read articles like this one from Phil Savage, about how Metal Gear Solid on the first PlayStation kindled his interest in politics.
  • When I finished Metal Gear Solid, those weren’t the things that I was thinking about. I was thinking about the perilous tightrope of nuclear disarmament; of stockpiles of poorly maintained nuclear waste; of the Chernobyl disaster. I was thinking about how previous generations had nearly destroyed the world, and how, in turn, new generations could still destroy the world. Yes, I was a precocious teenager, but Metal Gear Solid is detailed and explicit in its distaste for nuclear weapons and their proliferation. It wants its players to think about this stuff.

  • And articles like this retrospective by Rich Stanton for Eurogamer, on what made the Metal Gear Solid maybe-sort-of the first modern videogame.
  • The word ‘Solid’ in the title is a pun, referencing not just protagonist Solid Snake but also the switch from top-down 2D to the more ‘solid’ world of 3D. Kojima approached 3D design in a literal fashion – he built the levels using Lego bricks. Nor was this just a matter of modelling: the team hooked up a camera that could be positioned over their constructions and fed to a PC, giving Kojima and his team a ‘real life’ guide to creating perspective and proportion (the process can be seen in this Japanese making-of video).

  • I interviewed Peter Moore once, not long after he’d joined EA, and he was flanked by three assistants during our conversation. Moore would end his answers with, “Can we send him some data on that?” and an assistant would agree and then poke at their Blackberry for a moment. But I never received any data. Where’s my data, Peter? Did you promise Gamespot data after this interview?
  • Well I wouldn’t say pressure. We’re a big company. There is some pressure, yes, but the company isn’t going to live and die by what Jade does. EA is a great place for where Jade’s career is at right now; she has a great vision for what she believes the future of IP is. She is great at bringing the best out of development teams. She manages classic, high quality, triple-A projects with big budgets, and brings them in on time and on quality.

    Bringing in female talent is very important to the company. Jade and Amy are a year, or two, out from their project deadlines right now. It’s a great pipeline of games, and a testament to the way EA thinks about hiring women into senior development and management positions.

  • This Tumblr is worth browsing for screenshots like these, of Remember Me. I was playing this a few weeks ago, mainly for the scenery, but didn’t get far enough to see all it has to offer.
  • People seem fixated on how to rename the roguelike genre, and I can understand the urge. ‘Roguelike’ isn’t descriptive to people who don’t know what Rogue is, and most of the alternatives such as ‘procedural death labyrinth’ seem restrictive or dry. Here’s Waltorious Writes About Games having a go.
  • Another term I’ve seen suggested to replace roguelike is “dungeon crawl”. That has its own problems, one of which is that “dungeon” (like “labyrinth”) is too limiting, but perhaps a larger problem is that the term dungeon crawl is already used to describe a specific sub-genre of role-playing game epitomized by the likes of Dungeon Master or, more recently, Legend of Grimrock. I do like the word “crawl”, however. To me, another essential part of roguelike design is the incremental advancement players achieve after many, many attempts. Ideally, each death teaches the player something new, and eventually the player will build up enough knowledge and strategy to be able to triumph. This slow progress is a crawl indeed, and given the way my brain works, I decided to smash these two terms together to form my first alternative name: the deathcrawl.

  • Hey, that Jim Rossignol might have abandoned us for a life of making less fleshy robots do his bidding, but that doesn’t mean he’s still not spilling words upon the internet. He recently wrote about a few of the comics he’s reading lately. I have now bought two of them, so guard your wallet.
  • Even the cliffhanger-free delivery reminds me of reading long-form stuff distributed across old science fiction magazines, where the overall spread of high concept for the story was what kept you interested, rather the individual dramatic beats with their episodic hooks. That expected pace seems to characterise everything from TV to videogames in contemporary work, and is refreshingly absent in Ellis’ tale of vast alien pillars pushing themselves into the Earth. Trees is very much meant to be a graphic novel read in a large sweep, and consequently I think it will be best when we can read it in that format.

Music this week is whatever the surprisingly decent Spotify Discover Weekly algorithm has tossed my way. For you I offer up Four Tet’s Parallel Jalebi.

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