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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for baby baby baby baby baby baby bab– This intro is going to write itself for the next few years, I think. Let’s take advantage of the moments while he’s sleeping in order to round up the week’s best writing about games.

At Serious Eats, Chris Mohney writes about food in games, and how its inclusion can improve a game.

Plenty of listicles, comment threads, and slideshows detail the history and evolution of food in games. This video from PBS is a solid rundown and relatively comprehensive, if you care to pursue the subject. But I’m not interested in which games feature food, or even why they feature food. What interests me is how and why including food makes a video game good. Plus, when I talk about food in games, I’m talking not just about the presence of food but also about the act of eating, and the act of cooking.

This week brought a duo of articles on the making of Her Story. First up on Eurogamer, how Sam Barlow rewrote the videogame script by Simon Parkin. If only Barlow would make a Bottom game:

Input soon translated to output. Barlow began to write “terrible Hobbit rip-offs” which, in time, evolved into intricate text adventures that he forced his friends play. “Usually they would involve having to endure embarrassing scenarios,” he recalls. Barlow and his friends were fans of the British sitcom Bottom, with its scatological brand of irreverent humour. Bottom’s influence infused those early stories. “We’d force each other to fail and fail and fail again in love. I got a taste for an adversarial author and player relationship. But I never connected the dots to wanting to tell stories professionally. I guess ‘storyteller’ wasn’t on the list of careers that they handed out at my school.”

Then at the Guardian, Keith Stuart writes about how JG Ballard and Sharon Stone inspired Her Story.

Instead, he started reading interrogation text books, books intended to teach police detectives and security personal how to garner information from suspects. “Academics tend to categorise, break things down, come up with systems of reference,” he says. “They dig down into the systemic layer of stuff. That gives you a fresh insight, a new way of looking a things. Vocational manuals are written by people with deep knowledge and understanding, there are real world examples, step by step guides, it’s a different perspective full of information and ideas.”

Gamasutra’s occasional design deep dives continue with David Perryman writing about what he’s learned since racer Rollcage and how they’re putting it into practice in GRIP. Some lovely GRIP GIFs.

To encourage an awareness of orientation, we have small arrows on the HUD indicating the track direction. Contrary to other games, we want these cues to be almost subliminal in order to build that situational awareness. To encourage a sense of it, rather than a big ‘in your face’ directive arrow feeding people the answer – this is counterintuitive as a designer, normally I’d want to be conveying this information clearly and it seems to break the ‘rules’. However, In testing it seems we’re on the right track – people are finding it much easier to get back into a race after a crash without really knowing why.

Rob Fearon writes about Dark Souls (and others) and how treating a game as if it was developed or led by a single, all-controlling auteur encourages people to assign meaning and intent to its every feature and even bug. Which can be fun, and which can also be a mallet with which to beat anyone who dares to criticise the game in question.

The problems with assuming everything in a game is part of a grand plan is that it’s rarely a realistic reflection of how games get made. The intersection of art and product, the need to keep a studio afloat, to eat, the hundreds of different people pushing and pulling to make a thing and sometimes just get it out the door without running out of money, losing their health or sanity doesn’t lend itself to the one man, one vision, one great vision where every decision is the right and meaningful one, ever closer to the perfect game theory.

A short Papers this week by necessity. Did I miss things? Probably – but post them in the comments, and next week email me about them in advance and I’ll include them here.

Music this week is the new release from Makeup and Vanity Set. I’ve just barely listened to it so far but I like what I hear.

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Graham Smith

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