The Sunday Papers

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 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.


  1. Viroso says:

    The English language objectively has the worst variation of the having both ways proverb.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Huh, I always assumed it was an Idiom (a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words) not a proverb.

    • Rumpelstiltskin says:

      They should have also mentioned the Copenhagen interpretation of it

    • fearandloathing says:

      Turkish ftw “Neither giving up one’s lover nor one’s self.” Jesus olden Turks were golden, nothing like those times

    • trollomat says:

      Tamil wins.

  2. Velleic says:

    The “Malayalam” version of that phrase is particularly perplexing/badly translated:
    “You want both the one on the roof, and the one in your armpit.”
    And yet it still communicates the meaning of the proverb better than our version, left meaningless due to language shift.

    • Shazbut says:

      I hope the intended implication is that they thatch their roofs with armpit hair

    • asthasr says:

      It means that, to get the one on the roof, you have to climb… thus, raising your arms and letting the one in your armpit fall out.

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    particlese says:

    That music…it might be the devils. Quick, dag ’em!

  4. Bored of Canada says:

    Christ, that Kill Screen opening paragraph…


    • Eight Rooks says:

      Oh, Jesus, I thought “It can’t be that bad” and yet it was. Just… why? I’d happily argue they’ve turned out some brilliant reviews and articles, and still do – I’d never say Kill Screen flat out aren’t worth reading – but yeah, they persist in publishing this absolute drivel that reads like some kind of smartass winking parody of itself.

    • Pockets says:

      The Pitchfork of games.

    • Turkey says:

      Hi. I’m a millennial, and this is my Daft Punk analogy.

    • gunny1993 says:

      All I got out of that article is that the writer is obsessed with masturbation … of both the ego and the body.

      Touch it too much and it will fall of you know.

    • ROMhack2 says:

      Yeah Kill Screen’s articles are complete and utter word salads. I used to read it fairly regularly but it’s very downhill lately – no coincidence that it’s when they tried to expand the site.

      The news section is ace, though. Strange contrast really.

  5. Geebs says:

    I’m really quite annoyed at how hard I’ve bounced off Quadrilateral Cowboy. I was really stoked about it for ages, and I actually write code as a hobby, but I still found playing it a chore.

    Everything feels like it takes one more click than necessary and they’ve somehow contrived to make the in-game keyboard feel “sticky”. Cleared the first few levels and I’m not sure I really want to ever go back – which I’m sure is my own failure, not Blendo’s.

    • ROMhack2 says:

      I found it a tad underwhelming too but I got to the end and I suppose my overall feeling is that it’s good, but not great.

      The set-design is fantastic though, but it lacks the strength of narrative that Chung’s other first-person games had.

      Still, his games are like little comic book pieces and they’re unique because of their eccentricity. Arguably this one has more heart than the others too, which is always a nice touch.

      It definitely feels like a game that went through a stop-start process though. Mechanics were decent but I ended up being more interested in the story/characters over the gameplay.

  6. Philopoemen says:

    The Championship Manager article was awesome, and depressing at the same time. That two brothers could create something for the love of the game, for their own enjoyment, only for it to become so successful that they can’t enjoy it anymore as players.

    I’m sure the gazillions of dollars they’ve made, lessens the pain, but I came away after reading it pitying them.

  7. Ben King says:

    In the spirit of dev blogs about procedural games content I discovered this post by Bruno Diaz from a couple weeks back. In it he describes using an elborate set of simple rules combined with a set of sentence and paragraph templates to govern literary descriptions of planets, cities and cultures in his upcoming TEXT adventure game VOYAGEUR. There’s a particularly neat bit describing the trade-off or balancing act between creating broad and less varied descriptions, and more granular and diverse sentences that may border on word salad.
    link to

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    The Almighty Moo says:

    I may have missed this news, Does that mean fail forward isn’t coming back then?

  9. LennyLeonardo says:

    Yes, that Kill Screen article is utter gash. I feel like I need a shower.