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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for packing up your house in preparation for a move while being quietly grateful that you’ve moved so many times that you’ve whittled down your belongings to the essentials. Let’s put down the boxes for a second and find the week’s best games writing before it’s too late.

At Paste, Cameron Kunzelman writes about Jeff Vogel, cantankerous and focused developer of old-fashioned isometric RPGs.

I cannot think of another figure in videogames who has so diligently focused and refocused on a world and collection of ideas as Jeff Vogel. It’s this constant repetition, finding new notes within old songs, that I find so engaging about his work, and it’s work that I don’t often see praised or even addressed in articles about him or interviews with him. Vogel has an uncompromising aesthetic vision that returns to these same ideas of imprisonment, rebellion and triumph over systemic forces that is tragically unrecognized and undiscussed in critical circles around games. Even worse is that Vogel seems to still be a niche (but, thankfully, a large niche) creator who is adored by a wide pool of hardcore fans and the additional players they gather by word of mouth.

At Kotaku, Keza MacDonald writes about “how Fable Legends took down Lionhead”. Quotes from this were doing the rounds all week. Good ol’ Microsoft.

It was around this time that Microsoft came up with a new priority for Fable Legends: Xbox One and Windows 10 cross-play. There is reportedly an initiative within Microsoft, codenamed Helix, that centres around Windows convergence; the eventual aim is for all of Microsoft’s products to run the same software. In the shorter term, all Xbox One games were to be adapted to run on Windows 10 as well. Fable Legends was to be the first game that would do this.

At Polygon, developer Ian Denniston writes about his experience working on Fable – which destroyed his life, but which he did not regret even though it wasn’t worth it and he wouldn’t do it again.

It became clear that we were in trouble. We had lots of cool things to show off — demos for the press and those we gave at E3 were always well received — but the open secret was that we had pretty much no game. There was so much that needed to be done, so much that I don’t think had even been decided. It wasn’t like we even really had a plan of how to get to the end. There were many ideas and lots of potential, but nothing concrete. If we were ever to release the game, something needed done. And so something was.

Soren Johnson has been out and about, talking and writing about Offworld Trading Company, his economic RTS which had its full release just recently. I feel like the game got overlooked, so consider these a reminder. First off, he’s at Gamasutra writing a postmortem of the early access process.

Over the 14 months of Early Access, we shipped ten major updates to the game along with a number of hotfixes, which absolutely took its toll on the development team. Each update had to go through a round of QA, with bugs being assigned to developers who had to interrupt their normal development flow to ensure the update was polished and ready. Some of these bugs were critical, but others were of subjective importance. The QA team was trying their best to be thorough, but during active development, not every bug needs to be fixed, especially for systems that are currently just placeholders. I gave each team member the right to make a judgment call on which bugs to ignore, but the process itself absolutely took time away from more important, long-term tasks.

Johnson appeared on Shut Up & Sit Down to discuss the game’s boardgame inspirations.

And Johnson was interviewed on his own podcast, the excellent Designer Notes, by Bruce Geryk. “They discuss how exploring a black map is one of gaming’s greatest hits, why the hardest part of designing Offworld was ending the game, and why Early Access games shouldn’t have QA.”

A short one, because packing. Music this week is Maggie Rogers’ Alaska, because it was all over and I like it. There’ll probably be no Papers next week because I’ll be on a boat.

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Graham Smith

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