The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for chilling with your kid and wondering what you’re going to watch on weekends when the football season comes to its imminent end. Hmm. At least we’ll always be able to link to good articles about videogames.

The Guardian have been running a series of articles this week on games and motherhood. I loved this article by Keza MacDonald on how to play videogames after having a baby, which is, as a parent of a 13-month-old, I can confirm full of myth-busting common sense.

Tiny babies are always sleeping, and yet paradoxically it feels like they never sleep, because they sleep for like 40 minutes every hour or two and don’t care about concepts like “night”. One of the stupidest pieces of advice I was given when I was pregnant was “sleep when the baby sleeps”, as if you could just lie down, close your eyes and drop off for random spells of time at unpredictable intervals throughout the day and night. THAT DOES NOT COUNT AS SLEEP.

I also enjoyed this piece by Sarah Lea Donlan on how blowing up planes in Grand Theft Auto V helped ease her into motherhood.

It’s 3am and I feel like a human vending machine. My daughter’s constant night feeds are keeping me awake, but not awake enough to do anything useful. So I pass the time in my preferred way. I steal aircraft. I take a sleek black jet, fly it over a sleeping city and land it smoothly on a desert strip, narrowly avoiding a wild dog.

Meanwhile, Christian Donlan resumed service at Eurogamer by writing about slowing down while playing games.

Man, it is brilliant to slow down in a game. And only a certain kind of game can take it. Some games are built for speed, for velocity and sparks and the rattle of concrete seams beneath your tyres. This is fine and I love it, but I also love the game that allows you to dawdle, that not only wants you to look back over your shoulder in a way that you’re not expected to, but which has put something there for you to see when you do.

At Glixel, Chris Suellentrop spoke to Sid Meier about ‘his inspirations, burnout and why his name is on the box’. I feel like I have read everything there is to say about Sid Meier now, and yet I will read it again each and every time.

It’s been interesting. Bruce Shelley, whom I worked with on Civ 1, went on to work at Ensemble on Age of Empires. Brian Reynolds, who worked on Civ 2, went on to do Rise of Nations. Soren Johnson worked on Spore. These designers have all had, clearly, talent. And other things to say. But they’ve kind of said what they had to say about Civ. It consumes you, to make a game about 6,000 years of history. After the first Civ, I had put everything that I could imagine into that game. You’re ready to do something different.

At Kotaku, Rich Stanton writes about the high high skill ceiling of Rocket League. This makes me want to play it again.

From my first hours I knew this was a classic. Now I’m even more deeply-invested, that judgement is only solidified – it’s simply one of the best games ever made. The reason it appeals so much is the controls. You’ll notice something about the kind of games I like which is that, singleplayer or multiplayer, they tend to have a skill element to them. I’m not saying I’m great at games, but the feeling of getting better at a game is what I’m chasing, and it’s why most of the games I invest in tend to have some multiplayer element. I love to feel my own skill push up in increments, to find myself doing things that once seemed impossible, and – yes, it is true – I love the feeling that you only get from competing against other humans.

At PC Gamer, Chris Livingston tries to murder a tavern full of people with Oblivion’s poisoned apples. Definitely the best weapon in the game and it’s nice to see its praises sung.

But the real issue is Delos Fandas, the proprietor of The Food Bag. He’s standing behind the counter and he keeps interrupting me with cries of “Thief!” I leave and come back in the middle of the night, but he’s still there. I crouch, I cast spells on myself, I do everything I can to increase my stealthiness, but he continues staring in my direction at all times, even when I’m essentially invisible, and he catches me stealing repeatedly. I keep reloading my saves, but the outcome never changes.

At Gamasutra, Alex Wiltshire writes about the design of the grappling hook in Flinthook, a game I desperately need to play.

Part of Flinthook’s fluidity is down to its animation, in which the rope loops out towards a ring and then put pulls the character to it as it latches on. And a lot is down to its auto-aim. “It’s not really that crazy,” says Major of how it works, but it looks in a 30-degree arc from the point the player is aiming at and then works out what hook-able elements are closest, which is most meaningful, and directly latches your hookshot onto it. Clean and reliable, it allows you to simply trust in it as you focus on the action.

I enjoyed this GDC talk on the making of Reigns.

Music this week is yet another mix of chill lofi hiphop.

14 Comments

  1. Kollega says:

    For me, taking it slow and examining game environments at my own pace is perhaps my biggest pleasure in action games. A hell of a lot of effort goes into the worlds of those games, and my preference for open-world shooting games is partly because they don’t make me rush ever forwards, and allow me to thoroughly examine the spaces they’ve built during any moment of gameplay “downtime” (i.e. whenever I want to).

    Two examples that may be unexpected to some people, and yet the ones I spent hundreds of hours on, are Borderlands and Just Cause. The former has the reputation of being supremely boring, and the latter – the reputation of being a hi-octane, no-holds-barred action game… and yet, both actually feature the worlds worth exploring. By trawling the locations of Borderlands 1, you can learn a lot of incidential detail about the world, as well as see all the various tricks Gearbox used to build the game’s spaces – and Just Cause 2 or 3 (hell, even the low-budget and rough-hewn JC1 to an extent) played without opting to blow stuff up all the time is essentially a tourist game with lavish, exotic locations, where the biggest pleasure is flying a jet plane to a random location, jumping out at 7000 metres, opening the chute 20 metres from the ground after a long skydive, touching down, and asking yourself “So where the hell am I?”

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    Drib says:

    Sid Meier seems like an all-around good guy. Every time I read stuff from him he just comes across as humble and pleasant.

    • Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

      You should listen to his interview in the Designer Notes podcast, hosted by Soren Johnson (designer of Civ IV and Offworld Trading Company).
      He’s super chill and down to earth and I was amazed at how many innovations brought by Civ were not, in fact, designed for the game but rather came out of completely unrelated technical experiments that they somehow managed to cram into the games.

    • draglikepull says:

      I saw an interview with him once where he was asked something like “You made one of the most successful game franchises of all time. Do you ever get the urge to spend a bunch of money on something crazy?” and Sid’s response was “Not really. I like to buy guitars.” Definitely a very chill dude.

  3. Einherje says:

    I can no longer look at the image of this feature and not wonder about the intentions of the potentially murderous coffee cup.

  4. SquirrelKnight says:

    It is clearly a murderous tea cup. Note the little tag hanging down the side… And it’s British.

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      phuzz says:

      The little tag means it’s not a real teabag, it’s either herbal ‘tea’ (yuk), or even worse, Lipton (shudder), and thus not British at all.

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        Drib says:

        As an American, it is my duty to inform you that tea is tea, and there’s no difference in quali-tea.

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        Harlander says:

        Twinings have those tags on their bags these days too. [/pointlessnitpicking]

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        particlese says:

        Psh, real tea doesn’t involve any sort of bag whatsoever. You’re all dead already.

  5. criskywalker says:

    I totally agree with the article about Rocket League.

    I’ve been playing the game for more than 500 hours and having fun​ every single minute.

    Such a brilliant game!

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    particlese says:

    Jeez, man! I had to stop reading that PC Gamer article on Oblivion because I was on the verge of crying on public transportation. Those gifs…