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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for continually trying to acclimatise to living in a new place after more than a decade in the same city. Did you know that things are different here? And that they’re not the same as where I was before? It’s very difficult. Probably best to lower myself into my favourite chair and first round up the week’s best writing about games.

Age of Decadence has a reputation as a punishing RPG, and its developers are similarly no-nonsense in this post on how to survive the indiepocalypse. It’s a really a very straightforward breakdown of the basic things they feel you need to do in order to have a chance of success as a developer.

We’ve posted everything we had from day one. If we didn’t show something, it’s because we didn’t have it. We’ve “spoiled” every aspect of the game and answered every question about the game on as many forums as we could, giving people reasons to follow the game.

Go out into the world and engage gaming communities. Don’t hide behind moderators or “community managers”. People who give a fuck about your game don’t want to be “managed”, they want to talk to the guys making the game.

At Zam, Eron Rauch continues to write about esports (or, uh, pre-continues, since this is older than the one I linked last week), and this time urges people to pay more attention to the losers.

Our society exalts winners for their hard work and banishes everyone else—the losers—saying, “no one remembers second place.” Heaven help you if you’re third or lower. This fixation on the lone victor is especially true in the stories that we tell about the young contestants who are gladiators in the digital coliseums of esports. But if we take a broader look at the media coverage of these increasingly-popular events, this trend of hyper-focusing on stories about heroic victories ignores many of the most potentially compelling and relevant parts of esports competitions.

At Eurogamer, pal-o-chum Alex Wiltshire writes about his love of videogame credits.

I always watch the credits of video games. I’m not sure why. I tell myself it’s for professional insight, to recognise names and note relationships to better understand the industry, but there’s something else to it, too. I find them mesmerising, enjoying the sense of finality (despite presumably only having finished whichever game they’re from on Medium, not having touched infinite mode or the multiplayer). And thus I watched Uncharted 4’s credits, which seem to say much about that that game is. The great majority of the early credits are artists – first the art directors, animation leads, cinematic animators and technical art leads, and then great blocks of names: 44 environment artists, 27 animators, 11 technical artists, 12 lighting artists, 11 character artists. Their numbers overwhelm those of programmers and speak of the burden of work that Naughty Dog bore to create this stupefyingly visual game.

Also at Eurogamer, Donlan asks why Egypt spent 3000 years playing a game that no one else liked. Which includes his attempts to play and enjoy said game, and many fine anecdotes.

Senet’s not a dull game, but it is fiddly. As it’s about getting your draughtsmen off the board, there’s a sense of bureaucratic pushing and shoving to it – a bit of a packed elevator experience. With all the squares that require specific throws, and all the squares that are blocked and defended, the RNG is rather strong. And, since in many cases you don’t really have a choice of which piece to move, as the end-game approaches, it gets progressively less tactical. After an hour or two I had yet to play a game in which the likely outcome didn’t veer back and forth madly in the final two minutes. This could be exciting, but since most of the action is actually relegated to the last 5 of the 30 squares – no! houses! – there’s a fair amount of waiting to get to that point. Senet feels, more than anything, like a game that is won or lost by stragglers. It’s certainly not a game with a massive scope for heroism. Leave the heroism to the gods and the giant bathroom sinks. You can see why people may have felt inclined to bet on this.

The last Eurogamer article for the week sees Kate Gray looking at VA-11 HALL-A’s depiction of menial work and whether it satisfies.

Cocktail-making exists somewhere between alchemy and legerdemain, but here it’s something that involves tipping differing amounts of five similar-looking cans into a mixer. When I was a student, there was a lot of that kind of bartending – two parts WKD, three parts Red Bull, eight parts bittersweet, aching nihilism. In Valhalla, it’s a similar hint at the society on the other side of the bar – like students, the people of this broken, terrifying culture want to drink, now, and they don’t much care how it tastes beyond a handful of adjectives – “sweet”, “bitter”, “bubbly”. Why complicate it?

At Gamasutra, Simon Parkin works to dispel myths about “the autistic wunderkind programmer“, which is work worth doing.

Despite the confusion and misinformation that surrounds the benefits and challenges of hiring autistic people within video game companies, there are mainstream studios that, like Microsoft, are eager to specifically hire autistic employees. For them, Moore’s advice is clear. “HR departments at game companies often tell us things off-the-record about the challenges of hiring people on the spectrum,” says Moore. “Our advice is simple: relax the qualifications. We propose an apprenticeship that doesn’t require a degree. Can the candidate do the work?”

I enjoyed this article on how fiction might cope with the modern reality of China.

Fiction can no longer just tell straightforward stories about single topics following single narrative arcs; reality is providing us with all sorts of rich possibilities for experiments in fictional form. To some degree, the more true to reality fiction is these days, the more avant-garde it will seem. The way we look at things determines the way we write about them. Reality is mutable.

Music this week is the sound of a playmat bleep-blooping Frère Jacques over and over again in the middle distance while I bleep-bloop The Units’ High Pressure Days over the top.

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Graham Smith

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