Sundays are for clearing the decks of all the links we found over Christmas, so that finally 2016 can start fresh. Welcome back to the Sunday Papers.
- I played few games over the Christmas break, but I did read a lot of ‘best games of the year’ lists. I prefer lists which highlight games that I haven’t played, which means console-focused sites. The best of the bunch were Giant Bomb, who asked a number of game developers to write their top tens. Among them, 80 Days writer Meg Jayanth, Her Story creator Sam Barlow, Cibele creator Nina Freeman, and the best of the bunch, Valve writer and Old Man Murray co-creator Erik Wolpaw. The latter mostly contains Japanese dungeon crawlers, such as…
- Steam Spy’s creator did another graphbomb, trying to estimate the best selling games of the year, the total number of games sold, and other stats from throughout 2015.
- Robert Yang wrote a review of his blog’s sixth year, with links and thoughts to his writing and games released throughout the period. Lots of good stuff in there.
By far, the “most viral” post of the past year was when I called out Twitch for blanket-banning my games, when they could easily accommodate it with better moderation policies like YouTube or Vimeo. We claim games are art, but at the same time our game culture platforms insist on “protecting the children”, without even any cursory hand-wringing about free artistic expression. I can begrudgingly accept banning Cobra Club, a game about staring at penises, but then I went to the trouble of obscuring the penises in Rinse And Repeat and they still banned it! #smh
- Yang also wrote about his 2016 new year’s resolution, “to make a double-A 7/10 open world stealth game. It is tentatively called ‘Maven.’”
- Dynamic global illumination in Unity, dynamic cubemaps, dynamic skybox, pretty robust deferred renderer
- NavMesh carving in Unity, allows for some procedural generation / mutation without trying to develop my own navigation tech
Acquired an obscene amount of decent medieval-European-themed 3D models
- Procedural generation for stealth games — academic research at McGill University about assessing sneaking risk and automatically generating guard patrols for good coverage — not really using their algorithms, but approximating similar logic and reasoning and metrics for my own systems
- Hundreds of free animations at Mixamo; sword combat animations, torch holding animations, etc.
- Speaking of procedural generation, Richard Moss at Gamasutra has a list of the 7 uses of procedural generation that every developer should study.
Roguelikes are a dime a dozen in today’s crowded indie landscape, but few of them tie procedural generation to thematics as deeply as RymdResa. Like Elite and the upcoming No Man’s Sky, it procedurally generates a vast universe filled with more planets and space junk than anyone could ever hope to visit. But it does so with a singular purpose: to make the player feel lonely.
- Eurogamer ran a number of trends pieces at the tail end of last year, and Simon Parkin’s contribution argues that narration is becoming the most interesting tool of game design.
- The last few years have seen Chris Livingston write The Text Adventures That Never Were for PCGamer.com around Christmas time. This year, he instead uncovered the old sci-fi magazines that inspired 2015’s biggest videogames.
As I mentioned last time, I was out doing some last-minute shopping on a cold, dark, possibly magical night, when I stumbled into a strange little store called “Curios, Rarities, Bibelots & Old Sci-Fi Magazines That Inspired Games From 2015”. I chatted with the shopkeeper, who told me he used to own a store deep underground that sold bombs, parachutes, cameras, and personal teleportation devices. He also told me that several games from 2015 had been inspired by old pulp sci-fi magazines from the 1930s, and he had several for sale. He really stressed the word sale as he kept one hand on his loaded shotgun. I paid him in gold nuggets.
- Old RPS comrade Ben Barrett explains at PCGamesN why he thinks Street Fighter IV is “the greatest spectator game of all time.”
- Nathan Ditum continued his own tradition of writing a savagely partial look at the films of the past year. There are always some fine turns of phrase to be found inside.
10. Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God
Holy crap, I just looked and this didn’t even come out in 2015. I played it in 2015, so… I don’t know what to tell you. Get used to it. Anyway, here’s more or less all I want from a game anymore: you go into a dungeon and collect stuff and also you have stats that go up. That is a description that describes Sorcery Saga. Plus, I sit at a desk for 10 hours a day, so in my leisure time I need to stretch my legs.
Unfortunately, you can’t operate a PS4 while lying down with your legs stretched out, so mostly I want my dungeon adventures to take place on either a Vita or a 3DS. Sorcery Saga is on the Vita! If this sounds like the best game imaginable, it is. Feel free to end the list here.
Some technologies and workflows and assets that are now coming together:
The past five years has seen an explosion in live video game commentary. There are the usual pundits who, with the hyped up hysteria of an American sports commentator, explain what’s going on in, say, a StarCraft final. But more generally than that, there’s the army of YouTube and Twitch presenters, who spend the majority of their time talking about what they’re doing while playing video games. The appeal isn’t immediately obvious. Interaction is what makes games unique, the chance to exert our will and agency on a virtual world. And yet, the rise of game commentary shows that, for many, there’s value in merely watching other people play games while telling their own story alongside footage – be it about what they had for breakfast that day, or what a particular scene in a game means to them.
Perhaps SF4’s greatest qualities come from its genre – it’s one versus one, and immediately understandable. There are no different parts of a map to observe, or action that can be missed, or the disparate pieces of teams to keep track of. A man, woman or beast stands on one side of the screen, facing off against a man, woman or skateboard on the other side. They punch and kick at each other until one is dead. The end.
These latecomers varied from the politely empty – The Theory Of Everything was the second film in as many months to celebrate a Cambridge man doing maths – to the actually evil, as American Sniper uncritically flag-waved remembrances of a life spent ending others, and couldn’t have celebrated America’s erection for technology and killing any more gratuitously if it had simply featured Bradley Cooper fellating a .300 Win Mag for two hours.