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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for trying to go out for a Sunday lunch with a six-month-old in tow. Will we snaffle the roast potatoes quickly enough? Will he explode? It’s worth the risk.

Failbetter founder (and therefore former Sunless Sea writer/designer) Alexis Kennedy has been blogging a lot recently. He wrote this past week about No Man’s Sky and how easy it is, from his own experience on that aforementioned game, to mention features in public that then don’t end up present in the game itself. And how easy it is for the audience to find that out. There’s blockquote below, but I also like this: “IT HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER TO FIND OUT EXACTLY WHAT A GAME IS LIKE ON LAUNCH DAY, AND IF YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS, YOU CAN WAIT A WEEK AND YOU CAN BE ABSOLUTELY SURE.”

So for almost two years, Sunless Sea was my whole life. I didn’t often think about communicating its exact state to the couple of thousand people who cared because I was trying with my whole heart to make a good game, not even for the players, but for me, because it was an obsession. I noticed just now while I was reading this article that there are *still* some (minor, harmless) references to things that don’t exist in the game on the Failbetter site. We were just busy making the game and never thought to take them out.

Not that any of that necessarily makes it OK that developers don’t take the time to go back and update their audience about what things have changed.

Since leaving Failbetter, Kennedy has been doing freelance writing, including some for Paradox scifi 4X Stellaris. I enjoyed these notes about doing so.

4. I’m used to writing about people with nonspecific gender. Now I’m writing about people that may in fact be bird people or spider people. I just gave a character recurring nightmares and then thought, can I assume fungoid macrocolonies dream? Well, hell, anthropomorphism.

I read this last week but forgot to include it in the last Papers. This has been widely shared as ‘meet the real life Firewatch characters’ and, yeah, pretty much.

The challenge, Haugen said, was to accept nature’s rhythm. “New lookouts often have all these plans, they’re going to read all these books, or paint, or photograph, or learn an instrument. Then they’re amazed by how much they just sit there on the catwalk, watching weather. Those who can be content with themselves, and not having a list, have the most success.”

Claudia Lo wrote about the term “ludonarrative dissonance”, and why it ought to be replaced since, sometimes, that dissonance is deliberate and important.

My problem with “ludonarrative dissonance” is simple: with this term alone, how are we to distinguish between instances where it is undesirable, and instances where it is? Or when aspects other than ludic behaviour and narrative create dissonance? Where can we even draw the line between ludic elements and narrative ones? For example, is art direction something you group under “ludic” or “narrative”—are the distinctive silhouettes of Team Fortress 2 ludic or narrative? What about user interfaces and menu design? Sound cues? Level design? Environmental storytelling? I believe it is fairly apparent that, depending on context, any of these examples could fall into either or both categories. What do we make of the term then?

Eurogamer’s Robert Purchese wrote about what happens in the real world when a sword hits armour. I hear sword nerds be all “Actually…” but this is still interesting.

I had this steel breastplate on and I was holding a huge pike when I learnt a cool fact about swords. This actually happened by the way. I learnt that not all the edges of a sword were sharpened for slicing. I was like… what? But in the films and stories and games they slice people up like meat in a butcher’s shop. But the historian chap was like… no. The edges are blunt and the sword is heavy so that people can try and break the bones of their opponent underneath the armour, or at least severely bruise them, and immobilise them. It’s just the tip that’s razor sharp for the plunging stab that kills them. Oh and that groove down the middle of the sword: that’s there to let the air into the wound so you can pull the sword back out.

Here is your reason to hop down to the comments this week: Jeff Vogel wrote about how games aren’t art, they’re better. Enjoyably spiky.

SimCity Isn’t Art.

Nor is Civilization. Or Halo. Or Space Invaders. Or Castle Crashers. Or DOOM. Or Super Meat Boy. Or Hearthstone. Or League of Legends. Or Clash of Clans. Or Minecraft. Or Pac-Man. Or Solitaire. Or Pong. Not art. Why would they aim that low?

They provide consuming experiences. They are compulsions. I’m not going to argue that they’re High Art. They aren’t. They’re SuperArt. They take over your brain and let you get lost in them.

Meanwhile, Rob Fearon – who has often provided yer weekly enjoyably spiky article – wrote about why he’s happy to be working in games. Me too.

I had one of those days yesterday. People sharing graphs of the stock prices of companies during corporate announcements, enthusiast press getting in a jumble and worrying about whether a company with more money than I can realistically conceive can work on more than one game. I don’t get that. I sort of sit here and wonder how we let this stuff define videogames, why we concern ourselves with this aspect. Why business news leaks into everything. This wasn’t the 21st Century I anticipated. That’s not a jetpack.

But OK.

Because in the middle of all this, there’s genuine joy for a videogame coming out. I do appreciate that.

At Gamasutra, Simon “Parko” Parkin wrote about Steam Spy, its creator, and the specter of game sales transparency. This is about business news but I swear this juxtaposition isn’t a subtle comment on anything; I use Steam Spy.

Last week, in a post on the popular video game forum NeoGaf, Galyonkin, who now lives in live in Berlin, Germany, where he works as Head of Publishing for Eastern Europe at Epic Games, revealed that Paradox, Nicalis and Techland have all written to request their data be removed.

Twitch’s policy for banning games with nudity (while allowing games with ultraviolence and allowing users to spout abuse in chat) is both garbage, unevenly applied and poorly explained. A recent post on the company’s blog does nothing to allay concerns while encouraging developers to “trust your broadcasters” by cosying up to them during the development process.

Second, we strive to enable community members to find exactly the content you want, while avoiding content you don’t. That’s why our content reviews always start with a user report. If we fail at this, we’re out of business. It’s a hot, dusty road to perfection here; we are in it for the long haul, and are currently working on site features that will allow for responsible broadcasting and viewing of legitimate artistic depictions of nudity and violence.

I enjoyed this remake of the Battlefield 1 trainer in Team Fortress 2.

Spore endures.

Music this week is The Slits’ cover of Heard It Through The Grapevine.

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Graham Smith

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Graham is to blame for all this.

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