The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for visiting friends and beaches, and for in between catching up on some of the best games writing we missed during the Chrimble break. Onwards 2017.

I read a lot of articles which limply connect games to some personal trauma, but this Kotaku article by Coberly about the death of his father and the Civilization IV saves he left behind is worth reading.

And here I am, now, and on his computer are all the save files from his thousands of hours of electronic conquest–4600 hours of time stored in little pockets of electronic information on a hard drive. I have spreadsheets where he tracked his scores, playing through every leader and comparing the results. I have all these things, and I don’t know what to do with them.

We should probably review Frog Fractions 2, but we just haven’t got round to it yet. For now you’ll have to settle for reading about its development and release around the web, for example with this article by Patrick Klepek at Waypoint.

The framework for the sequel, which I don’t spoil because the reveal is part of the fun, is radically different and likely to be divisive among fans of the original. It’s much more of a proper “game” this time, and goes beyond clicking from one joke to the next. It’s still funny, referential, and subversive, but we’re talking about a game that might take you eight hours to beat.

Robert Yang’s Radiator Blog is seven years old and as is tradition he round up his year of work, which is full of articles and games and a strong reminder that Robert’s output is more vital than almost anyone else’s in the industry.

“Shapeshit” is a short vulgar pooping game made for Ludum Dare 35. (The theme was “shapeshfting”…) Prototyping the dynamic poop technology for this was pretty fun, and this is probably one of the most game-y games I’ve made in a while. Hopefully it’ll make a triumphant return in VR in 2017! Imagine: VR pooping…

As always, Giant Bomb published umpteen best-games-of-2016 lists over the holiday break, including plenty from well known game developers. I feel like none of the picks introduced me to a new game this year, which probably has more to do with me keeping up with games more than it does the list. Therefore you may as well start with Rami.

I can’t help but feel that the AAA industry is feeding off of the last remnants of ancient IPs, with only a few new titles punctuating a steady drip of rereleases, remasters, and sequels targeting the nostalgia of the audience that has so far kept the traditional AAA blockbuster alive. On the other hand, if there’s anything you can’t accuse the behemoths of our industry of, it’s a lack of genuine enthusiasm: it felt like each blockbuster might be the magnum opus of its series, with no effort or money spared.

At PC Gamer, Phil Savage spoke to IO Interactive about the creation of Hitman’s Sapienza level.

“The level was created by an environment artist and myself,” says Christensen, who spent two weeks mocking up a rough version during IO’s summer holiday. “During those weeks the good weather was definitely an inspiration, and we could work undisturbed because everyone else was on vacation.” He based the look on towns along Italy’s Amalfi coast, using both the colourful yellow buildings and the unusual topography. “We especially wanted to explore the verticality in coastal towns, and how streets and corridors connect everything.”

Waypoint did something different for their end-of-year coverage, turning the industry into a high school, publishing fan fiction about their hijinks, and covering the game as if via yearbook. I approve. Here’s a roundup of everything they published during the period.

Waypoint High School Dean/Editor-In-Chief Austin Walker said it best in his Dean’s List address explaining our entire approach to end-of-year coverage this year. We wanted something fun and celebratory and maybe even a little playful to end the year on. So what better than a high school yearbook, and what better yearbook than one assembled by a bunch of our favorite writers and artists?

What makes Frog Fractions and games like it exciting is that it’s not clear where the limits of its are. Anything seems possible. That’s an effect which is diminished however when it comes to sequels, as many people feel about Frog Fractions 2. Jeffrey Matulef at Eurogamer explains:

Frog Fractions 2, however, is stretched too thin with a more predictable format that robs it of its predecessor’s more purposeful pace. Exploring the overworld takes a long time and while there are plenty of goofy gags along the way, the ratio of jokes to skill-based navigation challenges takes a major hit in this ambitious follow-up.

Gamasutra’s end-of-year coverage included Joel Couture getting developers to talk about their most memorable game moments of 2016.

My gaming highlight of the year was probably experimental first person story game Moirai on Steam. To say too much about it would be to give away what makes it special. I came to it via an ambiguous Twitter recommendation and I’m very grateful the person recommending it kept back what was so unique about it. Ten minutes well spent. And one of the more ingenious and thoughtful game experiences of recent memory. Don’t spoil it for others.

Every year Nathan Ditum writes a review of his year of watching films, and every year I link it for you to read. There’s no need to stop the tradition now.

The year opened as it always does – awash with Oscars overflow, a pack of movies which really belong to 2015 and which have already been celebrated or semi-forgotten long before lists like this have been written. Joy looked like a lot of hard work in service to making a mop-themed Movie Of The Week, taken seriously because of the people in it and the names they have, while The Hateful Eight was what we can presumably expect from Tarantino forever now, a sort of edit-yourself-a-film kit which comes with plenty of exciting materials but without a single decision in the box.

Music this week is Grimes’ most recent album Art Angels, which I listened to a bunch upon release but have fallen back into again since. Rather than link to one of the tracks, as I have done before, here’s an episode of Song Exploder – a great podcast – in which Grimes explains the making of the track Kill vs. Maim.

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13 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Gus the Crocodile says:

    Quick recommendation, tired nod, clink of a glass to Rob Fearon’s nice bit over on Eurogamer:
    New year’s resolution: let’s stop screaming

    • pepperfez says:

      As an American, I maintain my right to constant, incoherent, terrified screaming until I pass out.

      Rob F is, as usual, completely right though.

    • Otterley says:

      I say cheers to that, mate :)

    • Rizlar says:

      Great stuff.

  2. meepmeep says:

    I second the entreaty to play Moirai, it is also free. And yes, go in knowing nothing or it is spoiled.

    • ezbez says:

      Agreed. It’s very short and completely unique as far as I know.

    • Premium User Badge

      caff says:

      Oh yeah… Moirai is excellent! If you like that, I’d recommend Oxenfree too.

  3. Premium User Badge

    GiantAssPanda says:

    After reading about the Civ IV save files, I think there’s something in my eye…

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Out of context this just sounds like you’re unbelievably impressed with the file format. It’s probably not that exciting, sadly.

  4. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Having completed Frog Fractions 2, I’m not sure I entirely agree with Jeffrey Matulef. Yes it was more gamey and less surreal, but none the worse for it – in fact, the sense of progression and puzzle solution were excellent, far beyond most games I’ve played recently. It’s a love letter to games of yore that I never played, and now wish I had. But most importantly, the absurdist humour is excellent – I tried to play the minigame of humming into my microphone to power my car, but I laughed so much I had to restart several times. It’s just a brilliant game all around.

  5. thedosbox says:

    I don’t know how I missed this, but Cara Ellison’s predictions for 2017 are entertaining.

    link to giantbomb.com

  6. KenTWOu says:

    Ghostbusters… was a funny film about ghosts…

    He can’t be serious, the movie was dreadful.