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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for recovering from a week of GDC. Let’s be clear: I wasn’t there, but everyone else was, which is reason enough for me need time to catch my breath before another week begins. Let’s recharge a little by reading some of the best writing about videogames from the past week.

  • Gamasutra have an interview with the creative director of the new Hitman, where you will realise that people continue to mistake “recognisable” with “giving a shit about”:
  • It allowed us to re-assess the type of storytelling we had come to take for granted in a traditional boxed game. Our main character, Agent 47, is by now an icon, but part of what makes him iconic is, we thought, at odds with traditional video game storytelling. By that I mean the ‘hero’s journey’, familiar from cinema, where our protagonist faces challenges and pressures that, when overcome, leave the hero stronger and changed for the better by the story’s conclusion. There is a change and a resolution.

  • You know what I do with icons? I double-click on them. Anyway: here’s Rob Fearon’s take on VR. It’s not his future.
  • Portable screen tech is fantastic. When I can’t sit at my desk and need a lie down, I just pull out my phone or tablet and I can still be connected to the modern world. I can still game. When I’m on a bus (which is often these days), I can still pull out my phone and read the internet and type crap jokes into Twitter. They’re magic. They’re enabling. They don’t hurt me to use.

    And sure, there’ll be folks who VR tech enables too and that’ll be great. But for me? It’ll just fuck me up a bit. Absolutely no fucking use to me at all, that.

  • Eurogamer.net were at GDC this past week and recorded a podcast while there, with our own Pip as one of the guests.
  • We gathered around one of the picnic benches at Shut Up & Sit Down’s board gaming area in the West Hall of the Moscone Center to talk all thing GDC, by which I mean mostly about virtual reality – in an accurate reflection of conversations all around the show this week. We also take some time to discuss the unique vibe at GDC that makes it such a special date on the games industry calendar, what Tim Schafer has to say about Matt’s mum, and what Epic’s Tim Sweeney is said to keep in his socks.

  • I imagine I’ll have links to more GDC materials next week, when I’ve had some time to breathe and read things. In the meantime, Emily Short’s round-ups are always a good source. Here’s one for the first day of the show.
  • Aaron Reed talked about conceptualizing Ice-Bound’s narrative in terms of a sculptural interaction — the player working with clay to shape the story, rather than moving through it as a maze or customizing it as though it were a car with selectable colors. And he referred to Ice-Bound’s use of props as “Chekhov’s dollhouse,” in which the player gets to decide which items take on the role of the gun on the mantelpiece, guaranteed to have an effect later on in the story.

  • At Gamasutra, Ben Weber writes the challenges and implications of adapting Google’s DeepMind-powered AI Go player to play StarCraft instead.
  • StarCraft is a great testbed for AI, because it presents many of the challenges necessary for performing real-world tasks. As part of my dissertation, I classified StarCraft in terms of Russell and Norvig’s task environment properties. The results from this analysis are shown in the figure below, with real-world properties highlighted as bold. The only difference between StarCraft and real-world activities such as taxi driving is that StarCraft is a deterministic environment.

  • At the Guardian, Jane McConnell argues that Britain leaving the EU would be bad for the British games industry.
  • The ERDF also funds Creative England, whose GamesLab grants new developers up to £25,000 each where there is little private investment, as well as providing access to key relationships with the games platforms that really matter, PlayStation and Xbox – the duo that has a stranglehold on the European console market. Those who don’t excel in the boardroom, yet breeze through the Unreal Engine, are given a much-needed opportunity to compete and succeed with their original ideas.

  • At PCGamesN, Fraser Brown had a go at running Donald Trump’s proposed policies through Democracy 3. The simulation couldn’t really keep up.
  • Where to begin? I reckon that Trump isn’t a man who messes around. He confronts his fears. That’s why my first order of business is solving immigration. Trump is terrified of Mexico, and he dreams of a great wall blocking any entry from the south. Time to make that dystopian dream a reality.

  • At Eurogamer, Sarah Ditum writes about her experience playing Stardew Valley:
  • It’s like having one last short to get your head straight before you leave the bar, or necking an espresso to bring you down as you head up for bed. It makes no sense, and it makes you feel horrible. Stardew Valley is a PC game that repeatedly needles you about how detached you are from the natural world and how soul-voiding it is to live your life through a screen. “There will come a time when you feel crushed by modern life and your bright spirit will fade before a growing emptiness,” says your bed-ridden grandad, stretching his hand towards you with a serious-looking envelope. Cut to: your character, skivvying miserably at a computer for the oppressively cheerful Joja corporation. Cut to: my heart withering in ashy despair as I realise I too am hunched over a screen.

Music this week is …Is Doomed by Black Wing, which was kindly recommended to me by a reader. It has helped get What’s This out of my head, which is the other music of this week, and every week.

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Graham Smith

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