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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for, I hope, getting out the house and doing something recharging. Fridays are for writing a roundup of the week’s best writing about games.

Quadrilateral Cowboy was not all I hoped it would be, but it’s still a good and fascinating game. This Q&A at Gamasutra talks about the game’s development:

Yeah. It just took a lot of iteration. A lot of playtesting to get that going. I was pretty lucky that the game was invited to a fair amount of expos and shows, so it got a lot of people just banging on it and getting stuck in certain parts and seeing what we can do to soften those edges and make it more approachable. Some people when they start playing can be intimidated by the programming stuff. There’s some stuff you’ve got to type on your keyboard, and I think some people shy away from that. So it took a lot of iteration to make that more approachable and accessible to people.

I also tried to tolerate Kill Screen for long enough to read this article about Brendon Chung and his love of physical machinery, but I’ll be honest, I couldn’t get beyond the first sentence. You might have more luck. Here’s a random paragraph I didn’t read:

After playing through most of Quadrilateral Cowboy, what matters to Chung seems to be cassette players, command prompts, disk trays, and CRTs—hardware that has that feel Chung seeks. But over the course of our conversation, I realized that Quadrilateral Cowboy isn’t just filled with technologically-obsolete ephemera that Chung finds satisfying: under the stacks of disks, old hard drives, and gasoline, one can find Chung very clearly laying bare his own philosophical ideals and approaches to technology. When I talked to Chung about Quadrilateral Cowboy, it became apparent that it isn’t just a game—in more ways than one, the game is him.

I’ve read about the making of Championship Manager before, but this re-telling is brightened by quotes from the rarely interviewed Collyer brothers.

“For the Italian teams we had to go into a football bookshop and someone, somewhere, for the love of football, had done these printouts of all the Italian league tables and squads for the season before all the way down to Serie C1 or something like that, so we just bought those and that’s how we got the squads because we didn’t have any Italian fanzines to write to, so we had to take that. We literally had to do it ourselves by hand.”

Unity of Command is a neat little World War 2 strategy game. There’s a sequel in development, and its creators have been writing about their plans for the campaign:

One thing everyone sure loves in a game like this one is changing the course of history. The new campaign will let you do this, while at the same time trying to stay historically grounded. You’re playing as an operational commander, so you can’t go all Hearts of Iron and invade Spain instead of Normandy. Instead, at various points in the campaign (often, actually) there is an option to use your prestige and switch to a what-if scenario. Scenarios are pre-designed, so the game stays historically coherent, even if not 100% true.

Mark Johnson is the creator of Ultima Ratio Regum and recently began a short series for RPS about procedural generation. He was also in Vice this past week, writing about the starting scenarios and AI storytellers of RimWorld.

Because these storytellers can interact with the pre-chosen scenarios in a vast range of ways, you might think that the “origin stories” of your team, whether survivors, explorers, or tribespeople, might quickly become lost in the game’s events and the massive possibility space of RimWorld’s mechanics and events system. But that isn’t really the case, as one comes to instead position these events within the narrative selected at the start — a particularly dreadful catastrophe can be seen as just another trial that the survivors of the doomed ship will have to endure before making it back to civilisation, whilst that same catastrophe in the bougie backpacker scenario will put the mettle of the explorer to the test and bring home the danger of these frontier worlds. In this way, the AI Storytellers integrate well with the starting scenarios, keeping them fresh rather than clashing and undermining their fairly exact stories.

And to stick with developers-writing-things, Andy Schatz, creator of Monaco, was on PCGamer.com this past week writing about how player feedback can affect your game.

The question of how creators should respond to fan feedback on works-in-progress becomes even more complicated when you consider that a huge amount of our media is franchised—the universe of Star Wars is essentially a giant work-in-progress. When George Lucas re-released the original trilogy, he treated his magnum opus as if it had been in Early Access all along. Did Han shoot first? It may make the storytelling less compelling, but the revised canon suggests he didn’t.

Friend and former RPS contributor Marsh Davies linked me to this joyful Wikipedia page, which features equivalents from other languages of the idiom, “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”

Music this week is the sound of something clawing at the inside of my skull, trying to escape.

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Graham Smith

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