The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for, I hope, rolling around on the living room floor with the kid and watching the olympics out of the corner of your eye. Let’s spend Friday rounding up the week’s best writing about videogames to increase the chances of that happening. A short this one this week, not because I’m rushed but because I didn’t read much I liked this week and I hate padding this out.

At Paste, Leif Johnson writes about the unintended educational potential of Civilization VI:

The Civ series is a little like that, and Civilization VI particularly so. The newest game allows players to build their cities’ districts over multiples tiles on the gridded map rather than a single one as in Civ V, and figuring out which districts to place by which imparts some basic knowledge of city planning through gameplay alone. Knowledge of how to interact with the surrounding world thus becomes more important. Cities thrive near fresh water sources; away from them, they wither. The sprawl of cities encourages the use of natural barriers like mountains to keep invaders away from prized districts. In a masterful stroke, the preview event itself subtly hammered home these lessons. Held in an atrium overlooking Central Park and Broadway, a mere look out the window encouraged contemplation of how Gotham’s residential and commercial districts interacted with each other.

At PC Gamer, Brendan Caldwell stopped writing about RimWorld for us long enough to write about RimWorld for them. He tells the tale of Corpse Town, a scenario about cannibals that you can download for yourself from the game’s Steam Workshop:

It was the day of the Great Hunt. The refrigeration chamber of Corpse Town, usually stocked with fresh meat, was empty. So all ten residents of the town got up and went to the plains where deer and boar roamed in huge numbers. There they killed as many of the animals as possible. Until the deer, furious at their mistreatment, rose up against their masters in a vast rebellion and began goring everyone to death with their hooves and antlers. And then the pirate attacked. But the town would still eat tonight.

Tyson O’Ham at The Stoned Gamer – christ – interviews the Adams brothers about ten years of Dwarf Fortress development. I could read Tarn talk about Dwarf Fortress all day:

Pretty soon, we’re going to add creation myth generation to the game, and I suspect that’ll give rise to a bit more fun on the world generation side, though I’m not sure it’d qualify as a mode. The same goes for editors for site maps and so on. Adventure mode just got cabin building, and that has the potential to morph into some sort of dwarf/adventure mode hybrid. I suspect we’ll see more line-blurring like that — fortress dwarves will be able to go off-map in the next release. Our larger plans had stricter ideas for different modes, playing dragons and deities and human towns and so forth, but I’m not sure how it’ll play out, versus the natural evolution of existing modes to other styles of play.

Also at PC Gamer, Tom Senior writes about why he loves multi-classing in RPGs, and why specialising causes problems:

Multi-classing means that you have the option to spread your resources around a little, to create contradictory builds that are quirky and fun. Grim Dawn is good at this. It’s a dark action RPG from Crate Entertainment. I start out as an occultist. That gives me a couple of nice summons (crackling lightning bird and weak exploding fire dog). He can also suck away enemy life force with a glyph, and throw poisonous eyeballs around. He’s a wizard gone bad, but can also swing around a double-handed sword quite ably. At level 10, I realise that I enjoy the big melee weapons more than ranged attacks, so I select ‘soldier’ as my second class and create a hybrid mage-o-warrior, and then use my occult ability to imbue melee weapons with psychic oomph. Synergy!

This week’s music is Too Many Zooz’ Brasshouse Vol 7 No 69, and probably the rest of the album, too.

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  1. KeeperKrux says:

    Interesting perspective on what happened to Prey 2.

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    • GWOP says:

      Wow. Just… wow.

      Abusing milestones to make a studio go broke so that you can buy them up cheap? Betheda/Zenimax are pure scumbags.

      • Shuck says:

        Sadly, that’s not exactly uncommon. Publishers also do this just to get the game (because they have ownership rights) – and either they drive the studio out of business (where it’s in no position to fight for ownership of the work it has done) or so they can force a renegotiation of the payment terms (now that they have the studio over a barrel, having already withheld some funds, the studio will accept any deal that keeps them afloat a while longer). Sometimes it seems the publisher just doesn’t want to spend more money on the project and abusing the milestone system essentially allows it to get out of the contract (at the expense of the studio). Also, I’ve seen this happen as a result of weird political in-fighting at the publisher – with milestone abuse being used as a tool to sabotage the developer (and project) so the money could be reallocated for someone’s pet project.
        In short – developers live at the whims of publishers, and plenty of studios have been destroyed or bought up this way.

        • GWOP says:

          Apparently they pulled the same shit with Arkane. Started rejecting milestones, floated the studio loans to keep the lights running, and then threatened to take them to court if they didn’t pay back the loans or sold themselves for peanuts. Arkane was forced to choose losing their independence.

          Then there’s inXile’s Brian Fargo, who recounted how while he was away, Zenimax sent in a a guy threatening to fire everyone in Brian’s studio if they didn’t ship within the date (after making a bunch of unreasonable requirements changes) and shut the studio down.

          And not to forget, they skimped out of giving Obsidian their royalty because New Vegas scored 1% less than their expectations. Sure, the game was buggy and thus the score, but QA was in the hands of the publisher and it was their failure as much as Obsidian’s.

          No wonder Zenimax has a Trump on its board.

          • Shuck says:

            It’s clearly a pretty awful pattern of behavior on their part – but it could be worse, they could be just destroying the studios rather than trying to take them over.

          • timmyvos says:

            While Bethesda isn’t exactly the most friendly publisher out there (one might even argue that the act of publishing video games itself as a purely capitalistic act would exclude a publisher from acting altruistically and friend), you’re disregarding some of the details regarding the New Vegas story. Yeah, Obsidian weren’t given their bonuses because of the Metacritic score, but this was part of the contract accepted by both Obsidian and Bethesda. It’s a shame they didn’t get their bonuses but that’s just business.

          • Shuck says:

            @timmyvos: Although it was part of the contract, the only reason to have a bonus predicated on a Metacritic score in the first place is simply so you have another excuse to withhold it. Much hay is made of the fact that the publisher was in the position of being able to guarantee that they’d not get the target score, but I rather suspect that if it weren’t that, it would have been some other condition that prevented the pay out.

    • Aerothorn says:

      Back in 2003 or so I emailed Bethesda to ask that a mandatory change in the patch (displaying enemy health bars) be made optional. Hines actually replied basically mocking my request as dumb, but then said they’d work on it. I was taken aback – both by the fact that he would take the time to reply himself, and that in doing so he chose to insult me rather than saying “good idea, yes!”

    • Bobtree says:

      That is some incredibly ugly stuff. Front page material.

  2. Otto Lidenbrock says:

    I’ve recently come across the Unconsoleable podcast after they had Ron Gilbert on as a guest (ep. 97) which is definitely worth listening to. They mostly cover mobile games which I’ve been meaning to look into more (I’ve played perhaps 5 mobile games in total) but they go into PC games too. Mostly I love their positivity; you can’t help but feel a little happier after listening to them :)

  3. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Atlas Obscura published a fun read on The Realm Online, a Sierra-esque MMO that came out in ’96 and is still up and running.

    • Nasarius says:

      Sierra arguably did better than The Realm years earlier (1991!), when they published the dungeon crawling Yserbius trilogy on their pay-by-the-hour dial up service. At the time people called all those sorts of things “graphical MUDs”, but it was more like a multiplayer Wizardry.

  4. Wulfram says:

    I guess this must be nearly the 25th anniversary of the “Civilization is educational” article.

  5. Von Uber says:

    I’m surprised there hasn’t been a comment or article about Bioware closing down their official forums, and instead relying on twitter, reddit and facebook for discussion and feedback.
    Oh and not just closing it, but removing it completely from the internet – so that’s years of posts, lore discussions, tactics, bug fixes, mod advice etc – all going. Forever.

    A really strange decision given the upcoming Andromeda.

    • qrter says:

      I just read Bioware’s blogpost on closing the forums. Good lord, it’s all about how the forums used to be useful for Bioware, nothing about how forums like theirs are there mainly to build community, for players to be able to contact other players and help eachother. Very frustrating.

      • malkav11 says:

        It’s ridiculous. Social media is perhaps useful for a quick fix of interaction or in-the-moment announcements, but it has no permanence, no ability to act as a repository of knowledge, etc. It is fundamentally transitory. A forum is far more useful in the long term.

        At least, for players.

    • welverin says:

      Wizards of the Coast did the exact same thing years ago, utterly bizarre.

  6. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Great Dwarf Fortress interview – I agree with Graham, I could read articles like these until the cows come home to the fortress and are then inexplicably murdered by a werebadger.

  7. Premium User Badge

    UncleBAZINGA says:

    Until this very day I had a very bright picture of Bethesda as one of my fave publishers because of their high quality games like Dishonored, Evil Within, Wolfenstein and Doom. Now I just hope they want destroy my favorite devs which made all these brilliant games…