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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for hoping the weather is good so you can go out for a walk, but if it’s not, making a batch of roast potatoes and gravy at home instead… Maybe I hope for a little rain.

We linked this in its own post earlier in the week, but Brie Code’s Videogames Are Boring is the week’s best article, so here it is again. Set aside the nitpicking and talk about its content, yeah?

So my friends want not to be repulsed, to recognize their own tastes, and to find depth. Because we as an industry fail at the first two, my friends don’t get to experience that gaming is perhaps the most powerful medium for learning and for growing and changing as a person. As gamers, we know that a well-designed game mechanic can convey meaning more efficiently than a novel or film. Papers, Please taught us that. Train taught us that. This War of Mine. Etc.

There’s nothing revelatory in this article about Japanese arcades, but it made me long to live in a country where games were a public, social activity.

While arcades in the West kind of died out when consoles became as strong as arcade cabinets, that wasn’t really a factor in Japan. Arcades were “where you go to play exclusive stuff” for us, but for Japan it became another social space. Something that also reinforces this is the complexity of arcade games I’ve seen. I’m not talking about actual gameplay-complexity as much as a focus on persistence. Almost every cabinet will ask you for some card or account (I’ve noticed Nesica cards primarily, but there might be more). For fighting games, this will primarily let you keep track of your stats, rank, costume unlocks and other similar vanity things. But for other games, it can be your actual progress. I’ve also noticed plenty of card games, where I assume you either use real-world cards that are scanned or digital cards that you collect to your account.

I love how Wind Waker looks and felt great despair that people pitched a fit over its bright, cartoon graphics at the time of release. To spend some time basking in it, I enjoyed this graphics analysis of the game water.

This effect relies heavily on a simple little trick — compound sine curves. These are really useful little curves that can break up the patterns and help to create a more realistic aesthetic. Plus they can be used to create so many different effects — I’m finding more uses for them all the time. I’ll go through them in depth in just a moment.

At Zam, Yussef Cole examines Brendon Chung’s games (Quadrilateral Cowboy, et al.) in the context of art history. I am always skeptical of articles like theses and the comparisons they draw.

Chung claims that the “monumental task” of modeling “cabinets, floors, tables, salt-shakers, egg-beaters, kitchen sinks… would crush [him] like a bug,” to explain why his work is so minimal. But it’s worth noting the objects that he does include: The wrinkled, distrustful face of the waiter in Gravity Bone; the solid, plinking geometry of liquor bottles and bullets in Thirty Flights of Loving; the greased, clunky feel of your deck in Quadrilateral Cowboy -all stand out precisely because they exist as islands of expression in an otherwise sparse world. His minimalism may be out of necessity, but is also responsible for more iconic imagery. In tightening his focus, we are treated to formal work that is far stronger than if he had spread himself thin populating his games with useless and carelessly implemented props.

At Waypoint, you can read an excerpt of 120 Years Of Vlambeer, the book about the creators of Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing and Nuclear Throne. We remember covering the start of the company, given that we’ve been covering PC games since 1873.

“We were in a bar with [Sony Europe’s then head of Strategic Content] Shahid Ahmad and he basically wrote the contract on a coaster and said, ‘So, what do you need, and what do you want?’ We discussed it, and within a week we had everything we needed to start developing. We got the contract the day after we got the [development computer] hardware, not the other way round, like ‘Sign this and then…’ No, this was just that he trusted us, and we trusted them. Done.”

At The Guardian, Simon Parkin writes about the rise of the videogame soundtrack, through the lens of Abbey Road Studios in London and the increasing number of orchestral game scores recorded there.

It’s been a swift invasion. Senior engineer Andrew Dudman, who joined Abbey Road 20 years ago as an intern during his third year of college, remembers the first orchestral recording for a video game, Headhunter, almost 15 years ago. “It snuck under the radar,” he says. “But soon after we got Tomb Raider, and suddenly everyone here started paying attention.” The 2003 score Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, written by Peter Connelly and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, was one of the first recorded orchestral video game soundtracks, and was a galaxy away from the bleeps and snicks that had defined the medium’s music. Since then, blockbuster scores, from Halo to The Sims to Uncharted, have been recorded here at a quickening rate. “These days, game music is expected to be on a level with the films people watch,” explains Garvey. “The sound must match the advances in gaming’s visual fidelity.”

Music this week is St. Vincent’s Digital Witness, which I cannot stop listening to.

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Graham Smith

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