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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for… I don’t know. We can do anything, can’t we? The world is our lobster, as the saying goes. Let’s start with what we do know, and round up the week’s writing about games.

International treasure Robert Yang wrote this past week about the indiepocalypse, and his points are worth thinking about as always. I have friends who making a living from their art and I have friend who make art in their spare time, and sometimes the latter group produce more because they have non-artistic jobs that spare them from the stresses of living on the breadline.

What I’m saying is: we should try to feel less shitty / embarrassed / ashamed about making no money from our personal projects — and for our own health, some of us may need to start seeking fulfillment (and maybe rent money) in other ways. Working for someone else, instead of yourself, should be totally OK and understandable, not “giving up.” Being a hobbyist should not be a dirty undesirable thing.

Last week Chris Crawford, founder of GDC and quixotic game developer, shared new details of his latest interactive fiction and put out a call for unpaid contributors. Emily Short wrote a post expressing her doubts about the system, to which Crawford has now responded in the comments. It’s worth reading Short’s original post if you haven’t already, and then scrolling down to a post from Emily that begins, “Chris writes:”. Crawford is self-aware and takes the criticism well. I find all of this fascinating, because I am interested in attempts to create better engines for telling interactive stories.

The whole point of the Encounter Editor is that with it I have stripped away everything to the absolute simplest form. Any further simplification would have to remove a fundamental concept. My ambition here is to attract a small group of people who are willing to put up with the intellectual abstraction and mathematical form used in my interactive storytelling technology. I figure that, if I can’t get even a handful of people interested, then the technology is simply inappropriate for people. I retain the expectation that, at some point in the future, the process-intensity concepts that underlie my technology will become so familiar that some future generation that happens upon my work in an archaeological dig might be interested in it, if only as a historical curiosity. “Gadzooks! This fellow was talking about process intensity all those years ago!”

Polygon’s Colin Campbell covered Anita Sarkesian’s appearance at VidCon and the harassers who followed her there. I was particularly fond of the crosshead, “A Pile Of Shitlords”, till I found that this is a term these people use to refer to themselves.

“They can skip right to bashing my ideas, and their followers will eat it up no matter what I say. It’s a losing game. I’m not going to change anyone’s minds debating with any of them. More importantly, I shouldn’t have to debate the fact that I am a human being who deserves basic respect, and in fact that is in itself a core issue with all of this: how degrading and exhausting it is just to have to keep arguing for and fighting for and begging for our own humanity.”

Last year, in the old MMO Tibia, a player finally reached level 999. This allowed them to walk through a door no player had ever been able to enter before – a door that the entire Tibia community had been speculating about for over a decade. What was on the other side? We still didn’t find out; the player walked through, disappeared, and never shared what they saw. Now another player has gone through the door, and this time it was livestreamed. Patrick Klepek at Waypoint has the story.

It’s been almost a year since I started reporting on a mysterious door in the online MMO Tibia, whose secrets have remained out of reach for 12 years. Since 2005, this door has quietly taunted: “You see a gate of expertise for level 999.” Beyond the door is a portal, but no one knew where it went—until now. Last week, someone finally answered a riddle that’s vexed hardcore Tibia players and curious outsiders.

Also at Waypoint, Rob Zacny interviewed Tim Soret, the developer of The Last Night. The Last Night was shown at E3 to immediate praise, but within minutes people had found old tweets by Soret in which he had expressed support for GamerGate and suggested the game would aim, in some way, to skewer what he perceived to be the flaws of feminism. He’s taken back and apologised for those comments since, but there’s a lot more in this interview.

My own… The day when we just had so many articles about the death of the gamer identity. I knew… I don’t come from America. I came to it from a European point of view. And from my side, and maybe I was in my echo chamber, but on my feed it was people just being like can you stop evaluating games on this scale of progressivism.

The Witcher for instance was attacked because because there are no black people whereas it’s a game about Slavic mythology, right? Can we rate games on their qualities and a bit less on… it’s really good to talk about these things, right? But maybe they should be more opinion pieces and blog posts without being games reviews. That’s how I feel. That’s just what I was trying to say back then.

At Glixel, Steven T. Wright talks to the head of Level 5, developers of Ni no Kuni and creators of Professor Layton, about that series’ success and what else they’d like to do.

I think in RPGs, the main part of the appeal is getting that new experience – new world, new story, new adventure. If you bring in the same characters, what happens is you’re forced to bring in the previous world as well, and that defeats the purpose of creating an RPG in the first place. I thought it would be better if we created a whole new set of characters and set it in a different time period, so we can have that element of “newness.” That’s the best part about RPGs – that discovery.

At Eurogamer, Chris Thursten charts the emergence of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds from “the messy histroy of survival shooters.”

It’s hard to draw up a strict definition of these games. There are a lot of them, for certain. They’re the product of the unlikely union of the Minecraft phenomenon and, of all things, ArmA’s modding community: the discovery, obvious perhaps in hindsight, that the midpoint between ‘playing with Lego’ and ‘being in the actual army’ is ‘paintball’. It is very modern, this marriage: impossible without the flexible standards of early access, the convergence of traditional modding and cheaper access to powerful game engines, and the emergence of compatibility with YouTube and Twitch as arguably the most important factor in the success of a PC game.

This letter from the New York Times copy desk to management in the face of staff reductions is amazing.

Music this week is Iamamiwhoami’s Play. Lots more on Spotify and it’s all great.

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Graham Smith

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