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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for baby baby baby baby bab–

Fridays are for preparing a collection of the week’s (and then some) best games writing. Since I haven’t been around for the past month, some of these articles are a little older than normal.

At Sub-Q – an “interactive magazine for interactive fiction” – A. Johanna DeNiro looks at the work of a forgotten, maybe-bad, maybe-great IF creator, Rybread Celsius.

When I first became involved in the interactive fiction community online, back in 2001, my head was blown open by the possibilities afforded by parser-based games. I dutifully tracked down a copy of Lost Treasures of Infocom to find my footing with the “canon” that most others were building from. But there was someone else who seemed to be working on the fringes of the community–who some people considered an Ed Wood-type figure making monumentally bad game after game. Many considered him the worst writer of interactive fiction on the contemporary scene. Still others, fewer in number, considered him one of the experimental geniuses of interactive fiction. His name is Ryan Stevens, but he wrote under the name Rybread Celsius.

At Zam, Jody MacGregor writes about Midway Australia and a Mad Max game that never saw the light of day.

At Ratbag Games the staff celebrated with beer or pizza, but never beer and pizza.

Greg Siegele, the company’s co-founder, explains. “Basically it was a wake – when a product was cut we’d commiserate with beer and pizza. After a couple of those people got nervous whenever they saw beer and pizza come out, which is of course a staple in the game industry.”

Senior artist Szymon Mienik says it straightforwardly: “beer-and-pizza became synonymous with layoffs.”

While at the same site, Robert Rath asks: how long until a videogame ad kills someone? It seems a shame there’s not a single mention of Acclaim.

But other stunts can, and have. In 2014, a Watch Dogs press kit triggered a bomb squad response in Sydney. The kit — a blank keypad safe that began beeping when handled — didn’t come with any explanation save a cryptic note. Before the launch of Mercenaries 2, EA gave away free petrol at a London gas station to simulate the chaos of the Venezuelan fuel crisis. The stunt worked, triggering a rush hour traffic jam and necessitating London police to close the event.

Pip Turner is running a regular series in which he looks at new games posted to Itch. I like that it’s called Itching For More.

Under The Tree, by Feng Pan is a small wordless story, primarily focusing on loss, made for Ludum Dare 35. You begin, next to a gravestone. Your only options are to move left, back towards your house, or right, towards the grave. As time passes (shown through a change of background colour and the growth of small grass), a tree begins to grow.

Konstantinos Dimopoulos, sometimes of this parish, writes about his work on Frogwares’ Lovecraft game, The Sinking City. This made me care about the game.

Happily, when Frogwares approached me to work on the Sinking City’s open world city, they already knew they weren’t just looking to create an intriguing, living 1920s urban environment, and then simply flood and fill it with horrors in order to create a passable background of urbanism. They wanted to create something fundamentally different. A city the foundations of which had been subtly but definitely shaped by the Cthulhu mythos. A truly Lovecraftian urban environment with a strong sense of place –a Genius Loci— and the ability to feel disturbing even on a lovely autumn afternoon.

At PC Gamer, Tarn Adams was interviewed about his experiences at GDC and his future working on Dwarf Fortress. From page two:

Now, the cats would walk into the taverns, right, and because of the old blood footprint code from, like, eight years ago or something, they would get alcohol on their feet. It was originally so people could pad blood around, but now any liquid, right, so they get alcohol on their feet. And then I wanted to add cleaning stuff so when people were bathing, or I even made eyelids work for no reason, because I do random things sometimes. So cats will lick and clean themselves, and on a lark, when I made them clean themselves I’m like, ‘Well, it’s a cat. When you do lick cleaning, you actually ingest the thing that you’re cleaning off, right? They make hairballs, so they must swallow something, right?’ And so the cats, when they cleaned the alcohol off their feet, they all got drunk. Because they were drinking.

At EG.net, Keith Stuart asks: why is videogame lore so awful? Most lore is shit.

The problem is, video game creators are prone to making two erroneous assumptions about what constitutes a deep narrative. The first is that volume equals depth. In the classic tradition of epic science fiction and fantasy literature, studios will craft thousands of pages of backstory, often involving many hundreds of characters and vast intergalactic wars. Sometimes it seems as though, early in a narrative meeting, one writer will say to another, “okay, let’s set this in the middle of a war that has been running for a 100 years”; then their colleague replies, “No wait, how about… a thousand years?” And then everyone agrees this is exponentially deeper. It isn’t, it’s just an extra nought on the end of a conflict that, without context, pathos or human tragedy, is ultimately meaningless.

At Vice, Daniel Oberhaus visits Genome Island, a location in Second Life dedicated to simulating genetic resarch which has been in action since 2007.

Today, visitors to Genome Island will find a beautiful virtual genetics laboratory, packed full of dozens of genetic simulation experiments and rendered with an astonishing attention to aesthetic detail. They can stroll through the Genome Garden or dine in the Chromosome Cafe, yet when Clark was first starting her pet project in 2005, Genome Island was little more than an interactive cell model housed in a crude rendition of St. Thomas’ Abbey, the old haunting grounds of renowned geneticist Gregor Mendel.

At EG, Chris Donlan writes about not accepting the premise of the question, at least when the question is what games expect of you. As Chris Bratt showed Donlan, so Tom Francis once did me when we worked at PC Gamer.

We filmed the whole thing and I was pretty pleased with myself. Then Chris Bratt took over, and Chris Bratt, I immediately realised, did not accept the premise of the question. No drawer-rooting for him. No meatballs sizzling in a frying pan. Instead, and I still can’t quite believe I am typing this, he carefully bent down and stuck his head through a cabinet wall. No calmly teleporting – calmly teleporting! I bloody love video games – in Bratt Town. He poked a hole in the geometry and got a look at the secret spaces of the IKEA universe.

Since I have been away for so long, buried under nappies, I’ve spent part of the last week reading a little website caled rockpapershotgun.com. It’s pretty good! All of the best things I read this past week were written by us, so here’s a quick blast of them: Tim Stone played Combat Mission with orders dictated by commenters; Pip found out how The Witness’s island was made; Adam argued eloquently for why Dark Souls inparticular would not survive an easy mode; Brendan wrote a fabulous piece on the current war in EVE Online; Rob Zacny wrote one of the best previews I’ve read in a while, on LawBreakers; and Robert Zak wrote a love letter to the 2.5D era and Build engine. Good stuff.

Music this week is alternately Prince and Beyoncé, so here’s Prince and Beyonce together in 2004.

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Graham Smith

Editor-in-chief

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