The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for recovering after a long journey in a cramped car with a small baby. Sundays are for working out which of your possessions you can trick someone into taking off your hands.

Frank Cifaldi is Head of Restoration at Digital Eclipse. Tom Bennet interviewed him recently about the practice, challenges and value of remastering old games.

You can emulate any hardware architecture in theory. In practicality, that doesn’t work out so well, but in theory, you can create a software representation of any hardware. Again, I would say that making that perfect is a whole other conversation. So, what I would say is that for older games, typically – not always – a software emulation approach is easier than trying to recreate the game in code by porting, not only because it’s just an easier task, but also for… I dunno, if we’re talking NES games, for example, or the Atari 2600, most of these old architectures, they’re written in, let’s say, assembly language. You can’t just port 6502 assembly code to modern platforms. It’s not a thing you can just translate to C. It’s not written in the same ways.

See also: Tom’s article for us about the folks at GOG responsible for reviving old games for the service.

Friend’o’mine Tom Francis is always good when he’s writing about Hitman games, and he’s good here writing about better rewarding creativity in the new Hitman.

At the end of the mission, you’re given points for No Noticed Kills, No Bodies Found, Never Spotted, No Recordings, and for not killing anyone but the targets. This is all geared around one particular way to play the game, one that many of the Challenges require you to betray. But no matter what goals you set for yourself, or what playstyle you were going for, you’re always judged by how close it was to this One True Way of playing. Previous Hitman games also penalised you for not being subtle, but you’d at least get a phrase describing your playstyle: “Psychopath”, “Bagman”, “Thug”, “Silent Assassin”. In this one, you just get a score: 3 Hitman logos out of 5, for how Hitman you are. It seems completely at odds with a game that’s otherwise all about encouraging a variety of play styles.

At PC Gamer, friend’o’mine Chris Thursten asks how viable the World Esports Association is. There’s been a lot of panicked reporting about this from people who discovered sports when the FIFA scandal was in the news a few months ago, but Mr. Thursten is calm and fair. Read it quick before the PC Gamer tab crashes in your browser.

WESA’s most appealing stated aim is its desire to structure and professionalise exactly this kind of conversation; to provide a way for esports orgs to talk to one another in a way that avoids exactly this kind of unhappy fallout. I don’t think that’s a crazy idea, in and of itself.

Joel Goodwin has been playing Minecraft 1.9 and not enjoying the changes to combat one bit. In this instance he can wind back to 1.8, because Minecraft lets you do that with updates. Steam for example does not.

After day broke, I took stock of what had happened. Somehow I’d gorged through half of my food reserves to stay alive. My diamond sword had been heavily damaged and I’d lost my favourite enchanted helmet which allowed me to see under the sea. I’d even lost my temper with our children who were watching this carnage play out and asking questions – “why aren’t you killing them daddy” – while I was trying to retain my sanity.

Emily Short wrote recently about designing your game in such a way that it’s “as hard as possible for the player to finish your game without understanding your story.” This is harder, I think, in text-based games, but it’s difficult in games in general.

You might find yourself getting bogged down in minutiae that have nothing to do with your major themes and characters. (“I’ve worked out this really clever escape for the killer and there are 9 different fiddly things the player needs to understand in order to get it…”) If you find yourself in that situation, you need to streamline, find some emotional reason why those beats are interesting, or — if the whole fun of the thing really is an enormous logic puzzle — structure your game/story so it’s just that one puzzle. That can totally work — see Toby’s Nose, Oxygen, Orevore Courier, Rematch, and arguably Her Story. But don’t get precious. If something isn’t working, save it for next time.

This happened last week but just after I’d written the Sunday Papers. The Toast is closing and the internet will be a sadder place without it.

Your future.

Music this week is Tei Shi.


  1. Anthile says:

    Also Why Harvey Smith Refuses To ‘Dumb Down’ Dishonored 2 for all connoisseurs of immersive sims.

    • Chris Evans says:

      Someone (maybe on RPS), wrote that they don’t need to read any Dishonored 2 previews because they just know that they will be buying the game no matter what. I fall into that category, but I’ll give this piece a read!

      • qrter says:

        It’s a video. I’m not saying that to be pedantic, but because I wish I could just read it. Everything has to be video, these days, it’s annoying.

        • Jalan says:

          The unfortunate result of some entity assuming the worst of everyone and their collective patience with having to do something so mentally taxing like reading text that the “best” way to digest something is if it’s in moving picture format.

          • Don Reba says:

            I get bored by videos. With text, I get to actively participate in learning by scanning ahead and picking which pieces are worth reading in detail.

  2. yhancik says:

    I’m always frustrated that video games and digital art (as the contemporary art-ish thing, not Deviant Art) are existing in two very isolated spheres. They’re just being two different uses of the same medium, and therefore face the same challenges, for example preservation and conservation.
    Actually it’s not even limited to the digital: for example video art pioneer Nam June Paik made a heavy use of CRT televisions… which are getting harder and harder to find (see link to

    While there’s a very old tradition of conservation in the art world, they’re in some aspects lagging behind what goes on with video games. On the other hand, video games conservation could probably learn some things from “traditional” art conservation practices (this “video games occupy a unique space among other forms of media” made me cringe a bit).

    Oh, and it’s definitely not limited to art and entertainment, see the notion of digital dark age link to

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Even most videogame-art people seem to be either completely unaware of or completely disinterested in new media art. Dunno why. Like they’re more comfortable being a weird offshoot of videogames rather than part of the art world.

      • yhancik says:

        That’s true. It’s probably part due to art education in general, and the visibility/popularity of new media art.

    • qrter says:

      I had never thought about what the ‘dark’ in Dark Ages actually refers to.

    • manny says:

      ‘Traditional art’ is incredibly corrupt, postmodernism trash anyone? That is why digital art wants nothing to do with that perverted monstrosity. And video games which are a much higher art don’t even seem to confirm the formers existence.

  3. Llewyn says:

    Sundays are for working out which of your possessions you can trick someone into taking off your hands.

    Graham Smith celebrity auction at Sotheby’s. Needs extensive catalogues in the classic Elton John style. Obvious, really.

  4. Chris Evans says:

    Sunday’s are for watching Kris Meeke win Rally Portugal, and crash your plane in Dovetail Games Flight School…

    Good read by Nick Wheeler on The Reticule about the joys of grabbing an elusive chainsaw in the original Doom…Sanctus Vidi Vinculum – link to

  5. Blackcompany says:

    In all fairness, its not Steam that will not let you reset games to earlier versions. I know this because Eurotruck Simulator 2 has absolutely no problems with being reset to an earlier version even on Steam.

    This is far more likely to be the publisher or developer that forces only the latest version on all players and not Steam, as rolling back via Steam is remarkably easy to do.

    • Llewyn says:

      Indeed. I’m currently playing v1.13.2 of Europa Universalis IV and v2.3.6 of Crusader Kings II. I don’t even know what the current versions are. Though this is a case of the publisher actively enabling it and using tools Steam make available, rather than the opposite being something publishers prevent.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’ve only seen rollbacks as an option in the beta dropdown where the developer/publisher have put the explicit effort into offering them.

      The whole digitial-distribution deal makes the arrangement more fragile than having a 1.0 copy on CD and a folder full of different patch versions: especially if DRM prohibits (or tries to prohibit) you from taking working copies of older versions. (Even then, you’ve got to snap them up before they’ve overwritten.)

      The worst thing, though, is the DRM client itself forcing autoupdates that break games that would otherwise work. FTL runs on my Mac. Steam no longer does because it’s an old Mac that can only run old OS X. They’ve broken old Athlon XP support a bunch of times, too, and since they sell games from that era, it’s not the most unreasonable thing in the world to want to play them on contemporary software/hardware (graphics cards and drivers in particular) and avoid a bunch of “how do I get this old WinXP game running on Windows 10?” issues.

  6. Moni says:

    Probably not quite what Emily Short was writing about, but that idea reminded me of one of my favourite moments in games from Prince of Persia.

    Throughout the game you follow the developing friendship between the Prince and Elika. At one point you are told Elika is dead, and you have to fight a boss on your own. However, you’ve been conditioned by gameplay to learn that Elika will always magically appear to save you, so in a eureka moment, you throw yourself of the tower you are battling on, Elika reappears and you can battle the boss.

    It’s a good example of gameplay reinforcing the bond between the characters.

  7. tciecka says:

    It is encouraging to see you working, dadding and speaking freely about it. Thank you for another column!

  8. Grizzly says:

    Sundays are for e-mailing the retailer that you brought a brand new shiny monitor from because they forgot to package the Displayport cable that this particular model needs and I don’t own yet.

    (Although Jeremy was right and this Asus MG279Q is glorious)

  9. glocks4interns says:

    Just saw Tei Shi last week, she was great.

  10. causticnl says:

    “In this instance he can wind back to 1.8, because Minecraft lets you do that with updates. Steam for example does not.”

    ehm, you can disable automatic updates in Steam and apply the patch yourself (and roll back if neccesary). Steam isnt that bad you know.

    • Grizzly says:

      Untill you find out that feature is broken and it has been ever since I used steam: The setting itself is often reset when an update rolls out, and if it works you are still unable to play the game. The only games that allow rolling back are the paradox titles via clever hackery of Steam’s beta function.

    • slerbal says:

      No you can’t. Not any more. All you can choose is to delay patching until you actually play the game which does allow you to switch to offline mode to play it if you want to prevent patching, but there is no way to stop a game updating in steam any more, just delay it. I really wish there was – it is something I’ve fun into several times.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Yeah, no, I’m pretty sure steam doesn’t let you roll back updates.

      The only options under Automatic Updates I get are ‘Always keep this game up to date’, ‘Only update when I launch the game’, and ‘High priority’. And there’s no roll back option.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Steam has never actually allowed turning off updates, probably to make support less of a fractured hellscape (also why you get a ton of DirectX and VC++ packages with a few game installs).
      The “Only update when I launch the game” used to be worded as “Do not automatically update” but it didn’t actually disable updates so users thought it was bugged when it constantly reverted.

      The patch logic has been tweaked for the better though, I used to have games update even while running, causing CTD’s.
      At least the offline mode works properly now and is probably the only way to prevent updates temporarily.

  11. iucounu says:

    Tom Francis is exactly right about Hitman, and I think they should patch the game accordingly if possible. That would immediately make an excellent Hitman game a brilliant one.

  12. Urthman says:

    Shamus Young wrote a piece a while back about why it’s getting harder to preserve ild games

    link to

    If you’re in 2025 and you want to get Borderlands running on a modern machine, figuring out how Windows XP worked is only part of the problem. The easy part. The real madness is lurking under the hood in the driver layers.

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  13. Unsheep says:

    Picking the right game to remaster must also be very tricky, you want something that sell enough to justify the expense and effort. Judging by reactions on GOG to remasters, most fans still seem to prefer the original versions, unless of-course you can’t play the old ones on modern systems.

    • Ancient Evil says:

      I don’t think people who frequent GOG forums are remotely a representative sample of the gaming public. Remasters seem to be doing really well, so there’s obviously a considerable audience there. The small minority of weirdos* who grumble and moan every time a game gets a spruced up version are just disproportionately visible.

      *I say that because in the vast majority of cases, the original versions are still available, so what’s really driving it is some kind of control-freakery about how other people are allowed to enjoy their games. No modernized graphics for you! It is heresy!

  14. Noumenon says:

    Without The Toast, who is going to translate the Internet for me? I can’t even. The Toast was my spirit animal. #truedetectiveseason2.

    • The Librarian With No Name says:

      You are correct. The Toast is the least cynical and most joy-based corner of the Internet I know. If anyone knows of something remotely like it, please let me know.

    • GWOP says:

      so I wrote a thing = I lack the personal integrity to identify a piece of work as my own in public without resorting to a mewling, pathetic, false dissociation”

      Why did I have to discover this site on its deathbed? Such a shame it’s closing down.

      • iucounu says:

        You have weeks of delightful reading queued up for you then, at least.

  15. Ninety-Three says:

    I like this formatting :)