The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for visiting family in Scotland after far too long. Let’s round up some good games writing before we fly.

The world continues to write about the new Zelda and I continue to not own the new Zelda. Injustices. Here’s Alex Wiltshire at Eurogamer on why Breath of the Wild is a game for the Minecraft generation.

Minecraft is a game about possibility, a space in which you play on your own terms. You can go anywhere, any time, and every triumph is yours, won through your skills, perseverance and smarts. These are ideas that lie underneath almost everything I love about Breath of the Wild so far, and they contrast pretty heavily with Nintendo’s usual self. Starting most Nintendo games is often a grind of tutorials and tips that halt the action as they carefully teach you the key systems.

Relatedly, newly freelance Chris Thursten also wrote in Eurogamer that Breath of the Wild shows Nintendo is learning from PC games.

The explosion shook the cave and as those Bokoblin died I realised: Nintendo has made a ‘and then the grenade rolled down the hill’ game.

‘And then the grenade rolled down the hill’ was a running joke on the wonderful Idle Thumbs podcast for many years, shorthand for any gaming anecdote where a bit of simple simulation – usually physics, usually in Far Cry 2 – was enough to prompt hours of rapturous consideration of the promise of emergent game design. The other word we use for these games is ‘immersive sims’, but it’s not the 90s so let’s loosen up a little, granddad.

Speaking of which, at GDC this year PC Gamer gathered a bunch of granddads together to talk about immersive sims. Warren Spector, Harvey Smith, Ricardo Bare, Steve Gaynor and Tom Francis talked about the appeal and the challenges of the genre.

Steve: I feel like the real sense of joy, when you do play an immersive sim, is the idea that when you’re able to let go a little bit and say ‘part of what’s interesting about this is, if I do screw up and I do get made, there are ways to use my tools to recover.’ Even if it’s sloppy, even if it’s not perfect. If you want to play the perfect ghost run, then that’s the goal that you’ve made. But I think that part of the beauty of these systems, and games like the new Hitman game, or when you play Far Cry 2 or things that are even adjacent to a traditional immersive sim, that feeling of saying ‘I’m going to use the rules of the world to scout this area. I’m going to make a plan, and I’m going to attempt it.’

There has been much written this past week about Mass Effect Andromeda. PC Gamer gathered their writers for a discussion about the opening hours, in which feelings were mixed.

Chris: I like the planet scanning, for what it’s worth. It looks lovely and each new world or object is fully-rendered, meaning you can disconnect from the galaxy map and look out of it out of the Tempest’s bay windows. It’s a small detail, but I appreciate it. And if you don’t want to slowly drag a cursor over a load of made-up planets, I honestly don’t know why you’re playing Mass Effect.

At Zam, John Brindle argues that we have to try to make political videogames. There’s good stuff throughout this article, but I love the takedown in the first paragraph.

It is tremendously tempting for anyone who plays videogames, and who suspects that the thousands of hours they’ve spent doing so might have been utterly wasted, to conclude instead that games are Important and that they can change the world. I always wonder how many attempts to make that case have this secret fear at their heart. The latest is Asi Burak’s suggestion that maybe things would be better if Donald Trump was a gamer – a fantasy combining all the narcissistic exceptionalism of the games industry with an implication that financial support for the games industry is worth parlaying with a Cheetos-caked ur-fascist.

PC Gamer’s Wes Fenlon interviewed Tarn Adams about the current stage of Dwarf Fortress development, which is focused on magic and myths. There’s a lot of paragraphs in here that are fun to read, especially those dealing with teleportation.

But if it were something harder, like, what if the price of teleportation is uncontrolled nausea for a week and you lose a quarter of your blood, or something like that? I don’t know how much blood people can live without. But you’re just completely out of it for a week or a month. There’s still cases where teleport is valuable. So then you need to teach them sort of a cost/benefit analysis type thing. Which, I don’t want to be too flippant, but it’s not much different than having a different movement value for a forest than a grassland. There’s a cost to this movement, and the cost is, ‘how much do I value my blood? And how much do I value not being sick all the time?’

The director of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gave an interesting presentation at GDC.

I like the sound of Bear With Me: A Play For Two Webmasters, a play set in 1997 which combines “live coding with live action.”

That idea is actually partly what the play is about, the sense of moving to a neighborhood in a city—Berlin and New York are both good examples—with this pioneer spirit, because it feels like a frontier. You’re there for ten years and then suddenly everything changes and bitterness arises, the sense of “but I was here first and these people are coming in and changing my neighborhood.” That’s what this play is about: the neighborhood is an online community and the city is the internet.

Why does Paul Pogba face so much acrimony in England? I like this caption: “It was too late before Moyes realised signing airplanes wasn’t a good transfer strategy.”

Music this week is… nothing. I didn’t listen to any (!). But I did listen to every episode of the Wachowski arc of the Blank Check podcast, in which critic David Sims and actor Griffin Newman discuss the filmographies of directors who have been given a ‘blank check’ by Hollywood after major success.


  1. Josh W says:

    Tarn Adams is a mine of amazing quotes. I was a bit concerned as he started trying to make more realistic psychology systems that some of the madness of early dwarf fortress would start to be tamed. But this opens up whole new avenues of weirdness.

    If he gets it working, the magic system could be unbelievable, if he doesn’t but sticks with it anyway, I’m looking forward to the patch notes.

  2. MajorLag says:

    Based solely on the snippet, I disagree with Alex Wiltshire’s assessment of BotW. Minecraft isn’t about “possibility”, it’s about creativity. It’s about building and designing things, bringing them to life. BotW’s relationship to Minecraft is that it has some crafting and mining in it, otherwise it is more of a return to form for Nintendo than anything else. Legend of Zelda had no tutorial, and you were free to wander and explore to your heart’s content. You could beat Dungeons 1, 2, and 3 in any order and Dungeon 8 only required you to buy a candle IIRC. LoZ was about adventure, as BotW is.

    There were games before Minecraft you damn kids.

    • Baines says:

      Some of the other writing about BotW is as bad. We have writers whose history and knowledge of games really starts only a few years before (and sometimes after) Dark Souls, Minecraft, Rogue Legacy, FTL, and similar titles.

    • lylebot says:

      From what I’ve seen of BotW, I feel like it’s borrowing more from (and offering refinements on) modern Japanese games than Western PC games. When I read that Eurogamer article, it struck me as having a very narrow viewpoint on what might influence a Japanese company making games in Japan.

      • KenTWOu says:

        Here is an excerpt from Game Informer article:

        “In the past I didn’t play many video games. But then I realized, this isn’t right, I have to. So nowadays, I actually play a lot of overseas titles,” Aonuma says. In research for Breath of the Wild, Aonuma played games like Far Cry, The Witcher, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, though he said Grand Theft Auto is a little too violent for him. “While playing those games, I do find some ideas, but it’s not that it connects directly to Zelda to where I would take something and use it in Zelda, but it’s more of something I keep in the back of my head while developing the game,” Aonuma says.

    • Urthman says:

      That’s only one of many things Minecraft is. You can have a great time exploring, digging, planting torches to expand the border of safety and hardly build anything.

      • Urthman says:

        There were games before Minecraft you damn kids.

        Yeah, but Minecraft was the game where the kids reminded the damn adults that they didn’t need games to hold their hand all the time.

        • MajorLag says:

          No, Minecraft was the game to remind everyone how much they like Lego.

          Sure, the sandbox creative side of things isn’t the only part of Minecraft. For some reason I cannot fathom, there are people who like the grind for XP and endless chopping, digging, and mining, but that isn’t what makes the game so popular.

        • GameCat says:

          Minecraft just outsourced the handholding to online wiki.
          There’s too much core items you don’t have any idea how to make or if they even exist at all if you’re freshmen.
          And don’t even get me start at things like redstone contraptions.

        • malkav11 says:

          Some sort of actual goal or purpose is important, though.

  3. Ghostwise says:

    It’s interesting this tension seen in Breath of the Wild, between old-school geeks who want context and narration, and other folks who want a frictionless gaming experience.

    On the other hand, Dark Souls games have already deployed a way to make everybody happy. So, heh.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      The only time ‘Dark Souls’ and ‘everybody happy’ have appeared in the same sentence.

    • wcq says:

      The really old-school geeks seem pretty darn happy though, since BotW seems to be mostly in line with the first games in the series.

      Also, I’m going to have to echo Mr. Delrue. Despite how successful the Souls series seems, there also seems to be a huge number of gamers who can’t get into Souls at all.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      “old-school geeks who want context and narration”

      Um… I’d suggest finding yourself a rom of the original Zelda.

      • simontifik says:

        I did this recently, having only played the 3D Zelda titles. The original game is amazing and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it has a whole lot in common with Dark Souls. I’d hazard a guess that Miyazaki is a Zelda fan.

  4. Chorltonwheelie says:

    Fellaini > Pogba.

  5. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I love the Blank Check podcast! And I just finished listening to the Wachowski series this morning! What an odd coincidence. I love the podcast because it’s hilarious and because often they’re actually pretty insightful about movies.

    • Caiman says:

      I sampled a couple of eps, but couldn’t get on with it. I like the concept, but it’s another one of these shows where everyone is constantly laughing at their own inane jokes, interrupting each other and being generally stupid. That makes me sound like an old fart, but whenever it starts to get engaging someone start clowning around and they’ve lost me.

  6. Johnny Lizard says:

    Interesting piece from The Economist on videogames and work-life balance. link to

    • Josh W says:

      Yeah, interesting, it looks like he was still drawn to the idea of voluntary unemployment, but recognised, perhaps because of interviews, the possibility of people playing more games because their lives gave them that option, but not the option to take more hours. I feel like we’ve talked about that on sunday papers comments before, probably when the original paper came out last year.

      Also nice to see the more fundamental problem getting analysis too; that the world of work is really bad game design.