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The Sunday Papers

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The address bar tells me that this is the 400th edition of the Sunday Papers. It’s hard to remember now that before this, there were no papers on Sunday, and people found their links to the week’s best videogame writing by typing words into a search engine in desperation. Here’s to another 400 years of internet weblink depositories.

  • At IndieGameStand, an educational post about the grey market for Steam keys, and the ways those keys are sometimes obtained:
  • Here’s how the scam works: You get a bunch of stolen credit card numbers and then go to a legit Steam key reseller site and use the stolen info to buy the digital codes. You grab as many codes as you can and then go over to one of these gray market resellers and turn your keys into real money since you bought them with stolen cards. Meanwhile, the website and/or developer that you purchased the key from gets a credit card chargeback or other dispute 30-60 days later.

  • The ever illuminating Robert Yang writes about the rise of the environment artist, and how that rise manifests through The Witness and Firewatch. Here’s a good paragraph about trees:
  • Sculpting trees is also the kind of skill that demands a lot of classical observation and skill. It’s still pretty difficult to 3D scan a whole tree, due to the sheer complexity and scale, versus having a person walk into your specialized studio setup and try to stand still. But once you sculpt and finish a few of these trees, then you can copy-and-paste them to make an impressive forest. (In contrast, you can’t make endless copies of a house, it’ll feel too obvious and cheap.) If you want a pretty reliable indicator of what year a game was released, just compare the technique and technology in the trees. Trees are basically the Nathan Drakes of environment art.

  • Andy Lee Chaisiri at art-eater.com wrote this article listing some of the influential women of Japanese game development, which I enjoyed because this is a region of the game development world which is mostly opaque to me:
  • Koei at the time was most famous for hardcore strategy/kingdom building games like Nobunaga’s Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms that starred macho mustached men of military history. With those roots Koei created Angelique (1993), where the protagonist is a young woman given the responsibility to rule over her own kingdom, if her kingdom thrives then she will inherit control over the world. Will she do so as a benevolent queen or martial despot? Such choices are up to the player to decide.

  • Gamasutra spoke to the developer of Stardew Valley and asked whether the crunch time he spent working on the – ten hours a day, seven days a week, for years – was reasonable:
  • There were times during development that I didn’t feel like working, that I even wanted to quit entirely,” he concedes.

    “Looking back, I think the development was characterized by phases of insane productivity followed by phases where I hardly worked at all,” says Barone. “I’m not sure if there was any technique to it or if it was just a quirk of my brain chemistry. I did always have a ridiculous amount of faith in myself and in the game, and yet I knew that I was still a nobody and the only way I could change that was to work super hard.”

  • Meanwhile, Mr. Biffo attempted to speak to the world’s best known game developers in order to… Actually, I’m just going to nab the title outright, caps and all. WE ASKED THESE TOP GAME DESIGNERS IF THEY’D EVER EATEN THEIR OWN POO AND NOT A SINGLE ONE REPLIED:
  • “Hi Sid,

    You don’t know us, but we love your Civilisation games. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Quick question: have you ever eaten your own poo (faeces)? Incidentally, we found your email address on a forum. Cheers.

  • At the Guardian, an anonymous programmer wrote about their experience working in the games industry, achieving that dream, and ultimately deciding to leave for a less exploitative industry:
  • At my studio you needed to have the “passion” for a project to work six days a week, or put in 16-hour days. This is very much prevalent in the game industry and is seen as pulling out all the stops for your love of the project. Of course, this places exceptional stress on your quality of life and family time. I have gone through really tough periods at home, when it feels like there’s enormous pressure to put work first. Management will always talk about having a healthy work-life balance but the implication is there that you could be doing more, fixing more bugs, taking on more work. I’ve had blazing rows with my wife about the amount of time I was spending at work rather than with my children – but feeling like your effort is constantly being judged means you end up doing it again and again.

  • At Zam, John Brindle took a look “into the FBI’s bizarre anti-extremism browser game“:
  • Don’t Be a Puppet: Pull Back the Curtain on Violent Extremism is an interactive multimedia microsite which promises to “educate teens on the destructive nature of violent extremism”. In practice it is a very beige combination of a Dorling Kindersley edutainment CD-ROM and some kind of War on Terror Reefer Madness, which never quite matches the adorable naffness of either.

  • Giant Bomb’s guest columns continue with Gita Jackson writing about Dwarf Fortress and how it does fantasy better than most games by not simply replicating “Tolkien-esque fantasy”. Better than that, it opens with two arguments I’m fond of; one, that saying Dwarf Fortress is hard is the least interesting thing about it and two, that people often bury the lede when trying to get you to read, watch, or play something considered ‘worthy’:
  • When I play Dwarf Fortress–or dip my toes back in by reviewing the records and legends of my worlds–I remember something my mom once told me. Having immigrated from India to the United States when she was three, she wasn’t familiar with a multitude of things that saturate our culture. Chief among those was the Bible, and when she sat down and read it, she wondered why no one told her how sexy it was. Full pages filled with begats, full pages devoted to lustful jealousy, full pages of illicit sex (and the scandals derived thereof). I had a similar feeling in my English classes: When I read Jane Austen, I wondered why no one tells teenagers that you’re supposed to find it funny; when I think about Wuthering Heights, I wonder why no one tells people there’s a fucking ghost in the very first chapter. And I have a similar feeling about Dwarf Fortress, a game I avoided playing for years because all I ever heard was that it was hard. Dwarf Fortress, as it turns out, is delightfully human and absurd.

  • Quinns is learning to be good at Street Fighter and is recording a podcast about it called The Contender. That introductory logo noise is good on the ears.

Music this week is– is– I haven’t really been listening to any music this week. But here’s Utopia by Chick on Speed. There’s a different version of the track and more on Spotify.

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Graham Smith

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