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The Sunday Papers

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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.

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Graham Smith

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Graham is to blame for all this.

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