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The Sunday Papers

The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for enjoying Father’s Day with a long lie, and relaxing even more after the prior day’s modest birthday celebrations. 32, eh? This seems a decent age to read some decent games writing:

Christian Donlan at Eurogamer writes about Sony’s E3 press conference, finding little that truly excites among its polished, melancholic worlds of violence. I felt this way about E3 as a whole, at points, and Sony’s was most guilty of it for the similarity in presentation style between games.

This year, PlayStation’s Gatsby has a rather strange idea of what makes a party. This was exemplary stuff in one manner of speaking. The days in which Sony would stop everything for fifteen minutes to fill us in on a swish marketing deal with Coca-Cola, or a cable show they were thinking of making, are long gone. This is games start to finish, and most of them look pretty good – even if more than you might expect are destined for 2018. Big names, small names, PS4, Pro, and PSVR – no Vita, but the way that that PSVR is hived off into its own segment suggests that it might be the new Vita anyway – this was another show of strength. And yet there is something a little odd about it. Sony’s 2017 conference did a very nice line in gloomy spectacle, but it had little thematic range. Video games are beautiful, melancholic affairs, if Sony is to be listened to. They are set, more often than not, in the vast, dripping outdoors, and they are populated by angry or subdued loners engaged in grumpy bursts of hyperviolence.

Jeff Vogel followed up on his article for Gamasutra about games having too many words with a case study at his own site. He looks at the opening of Pillars of Eternity and breaks down, part by part, what it’s doing with words and gives examples of why it’s too many. The common defence for this stuff is, “A lot of those words are optional!”. That doesn’t satisfy me personally because the drive to make the best decision is strong (where ‘best’ is variable) and it’s not always clear that ‘optional’ text won’t help me make a better choice. (Also something being optional isn’t an excuse for it to be boring or overlong).

All the descriptions together are about 330 words, much of it references to random game locations the player has no knowledge of. “Ein Glanfath” “Dyrwood” “Glanfathan” “Ixamitl” “Naasitaq” How can anyone get anything coherent from this tangle? This is literally the second thing the game shows you.

Seriously, try this: Read the description of “Eir Glanfath” above. Then close your eyes and count to ten. Then say everything you recall about Eir Glanfath. I’ll bet you retained very little. And that’s setting aside whether this stuff is actually necessary to play the game. (Not really.)

Robert Yang wrote a warning this past week not to idealise ‘simpler’ times, but also not to lose faith in harder times.

Four years ago, we were also talking about a “queer games scene” and thinking about how to direct that momentum. For a variety of reasons, that energy ended up dissipating. On the plus side, there are definitely more people doing this work now, which is good, but there’s also much less appetite for concentrating it into a “scene”, which hurts our visibility and solidarity.

You might also enjoy his piece on the Murder, She Wrote episode on VR, which Alice has screengrabbed frequently on RPS.

Meanwhile, Gita Jackson at Kotaku commends the depictions of black characters’ hair at E3.

While this year’s E3 was definitely full of afros, I noticed a difference. The hair looked right. It looked good, even, and it wasn’t played for a joke. Characters with afros, like this unnamed woman in the trailer for A Way Out, weren’t shucking and jiving. Her hair texture implies that “particulate mass of hyper-tight curls” that Narcisse describes.

Simon Parkin writes in the New Yorker about a falconer who works for videogames and tech companies, using the birds to keep their multi-million dollar campuses free from pests. The article finds other commonalities between falconry and game design, though I’m interested mostly in the absurdities of large corporations.

Bystanders who balk at the sight of someone shooting pigeons are often delighted to see a raptor up close. As one Riot Games employee told me, “It’s a strangely beautiful way to deal with a mundane problem.” To see these birds, icons of environmental fragility, wheeling soundlessly around corporate buildings is, Macdonald said, a “kind of redemptive act, a naturalization of the workings of late capitalism.”

Adriaan de Jongh wrote about how he (and Sylvain Tegroeg) created Hidden Folks, the Where’s Waldo-like can-you-spot game that came out earlier this year. He writes about the huge amount of effort that went into making each area of the game, with some lovely gifs.

When we start working on a new area in the game, we first make an ‘interaction scene’ where Sylvain puts together all the interactions of a theme in one scene. The image above is only one small section of this scene. With this scene, I can start working on the technical side of the interactions (more on this later) while Sylvain can focus on putting together a rough layout with our ideas for sub-themes spread across the map. With a rough layout indicating how certain sub-themes make up sub-areas, Sylvain starts filling in the map, organically growing each sub-area bit by bit, while I add scripts to certain visuals to make them interactive – to give each sub-area not only a distinctive look, but also a distinctive feel.

Music this week is Van Morrison’s Caravan. The album it’s from, Moondance, is up on Spotify.

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Graham Smith

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