The Sunday Papers


Sundays are for visiting friends, and trying to pretend you never left the comforting warmth of your uni bubble. Also video games.

In a shocking diversion from digital paper to digital sound waves, I’m going to use this first slot in the papers to tell you about the return of Steve Gaynor’s Tone Control podcast. The Gone Home/Tacoma dev’s show came back last December after a 3 year long hiatus, and previous paper wrangler Graham tells me the Muriel Cartwright, Nina Freeman and Harvey Smith episodes are “good stuff”. I’ve dipped into the Harvey Smith one, and enjoyed the early detour into video game tattoos.

Harvey Smith is a mensch. Not only has he been a lead or director on some of the most inspiring and foundational Immersive Sim games of the last 20 years, he’s also just a sweet, friendly, thoughtful guy who’s great to talk to and has a wonderful southern accent. And lucky you, last time I talked with him, I had my recorder turned on! Hear insight on everything from the advent of the System Shock and Deus Ex series, up through modernizing those concepts into Dishonored, and beyond.

Continuing (briefly) with the heretical audio paper format, I also enjoyed Waypoint’s chat about beloved games that the team has played to the point where they hate them. Slay the Spire is teetering on the edge of that for me: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told myself that I need to stop playing until the third character comes out. The Waypoint gang used Cameron Kunzelman’s article from last month as a jumping off point:

A hundred or so combined hours of avid questioning and intensive attention rewarded me with the reality that I will probably never play any of the Baldur’s Gate games again. Despite how much I love them, or at least loved them, I don’t think I can ever bring myself to boot them back up. In chasing the epic quest and squeezing all of the conversation topics that we could out of them, I think it might be impossible to ever enjoy them. They are not puzzles I get a thrill out of solving or stories that I can’t help but immerse myself in. They’re one big, cracked facade.

Also on Waypoint, Rob Zacny uses Blizzard’s recent Warcraft 3 exhibition tournament as an excuse to talk about one of the missions from the game’s campaign, “The Culling of Stratholme”. I’d forgotten about that particular level, but reading Zacny’s piece has brought it all flooding back to me.

But Warcraft 3’s historical significance isn’t why people love it, talk about it, and flip metaphorical tables when it is not given the Remastered HD Collector’s Special Edition treatment. It’s also one of the all-time great single-player campaigns in history. Where the earlier Blizzard games told their stories via cutscenes and in-game dialogue to which you were just a spectator, Warcraft 3 had most of its key events unfold inside of the missions themselves, and found ways of forcing the player to participate in them. It was a game in which your original hero lost his soul and, by the time you finished playing his story, you might feel like you’d traded a piece of yours as well.

On PC Gamer, Joe Donnelly tells the tale of how he robbed a string of banks on a GTA 5 roleplaying server by pretending to be a journalist. Joe’s confidence trickery goes fabulously well, until it doesn’t.

What happened next was like that scene from Catch Me If You Can where Tom Hanks’ Carl Hanratty tracks down Leo DiCaprio’s Frank Abagnale Jr. in a hotel room. Only instead of getting away, I wound up incapacitated on the floor with more holes in me than a tea bag, and a dog chewing on my testicles.

Johnny Chiodini recounted some heists of a more murderous variety over at Eurogamer, describing the antics his pen and paper roleplaying group got up to in Blades in the Dark. I’ve heard similarly great tales from a friend who’s also tried the game, which sounds enticingly snappy. I quite like tabletop roleplaying, but without streamlined systems it can tend to drag on.

Now in control of a still they were purposefully mismanaging, they organised a fake charity ball, killed three or four people and blinded dozens of partygoers on purpose with bootleg moonshine in order to steal the donations box. They had access to this box anyway, on account of having organised the ball, but apparently blinding people was of the utmost importance.

Determined to seek out the truth about Cod Blops 4’s contentious “IIII” logo, Eurogamer’s Christian Donlan rang up the British Museum. Writing about the technicalities of Roman numerals doesn’t get more entertaining than this.

And get this, everyone: reading around, I discovered that it has been argued that the subtraction notation was developed after the addition notation, and you can kind of glimpse the reasoning behind this for yourself if you think of the subtraction notation as being, well, a form of shorthand. IV could have followed on from IIII quite naturally because it required fewer characters and was less effort. (You can see this most clearly if you compare 9s: VIIII is a bit of an awkward pain that nobody wants to get stuck in an elevator with; IX is rather dashing.)

Danny O’Dyer hosts the first episode of Noclip’s new video series, Bonus Level. He takes an interesting look at the history of FPS’s, praising games like Plunkbat that reward critical thinking as much as they do skilled shooting. The side by side shots of No Country for Old Men and Plunkbat moments are gold.

Janine Hawkins kept an illustrated journal of the games she played in 2017, and you can now grab that as a pay-what-you-want PDF.

Spiderman is not a fan of profanity.

Music this week is Jukebox by the Swingrowers, who infuriatingly insist that their name be pronounced “Swin-growers”. Ignore them, they’re being silly.


  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    Also found this earlier which I found to be rather neat.

  2. Skabooga says:

    Well, I somehow missed out on the CodBlops stuff, but I was interested to read about Roman numeral usage in antiquity nonetheless.

  3. Gormongous says:

    Cool article about Roman numerals, even if the upshot is just “yes, IIII is technically correct”! I work with Italianate Latin sources of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, and I see IIII only sometimes but VIIII almost always, and it’s interesting to think that subtractive notation probably became common only with the professionalization of legal and notarial practices in the late thirteenth century.

    The really great thing, though, is how helpful that curator was about such a niggling question. Giving sources for further reading? Neat!

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Always fun to come across someone who loves their job like that.

      Although the article the article rather misses the point that regardless of Roman usage its not how we use Roman numerals today and it deserves as much flack as for example strewing extraneous ‘e’s everywhere for that Olde world English charm.

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      phuzz says:

      My folks have a clock with Roman numerals on which uses IIII for four o’clock, I always assumed it was just dialect/stylistic thing.

  4. Urthman says:

    The idea of lamenting that a game is no longer fun anymore after you’ve put in hundreds of hours playing and replaying it seems super weird to me. I’d say the vast majority of games I’ve loved I have no real desire to go back to.

    The idea that a video game is the sort of thing that ought to be endlessly entertaining is completely foreign to me.

    Obviously multiplayer eSports like DOTA or MMOs are trying to be endlessly replayable, but I’d think most single-player games aren’t even trying to be something you’d keep coming back to over and over forever.

    • Turkey says:

      I think we’re in the minority here, cause it seems like a pretty common sentiment whenever something like this is brought up. I think a lot of people dream of a forever game.

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        dnelson says:

        Could be just a case of oversaturation. There are certain books and movies (LoTR and The Blues Brothers, for examples) that I have read/seen over and over and over and wouldn’t mind watching over and over and over, but maybe accumulating hundreds of hours of one piece of media over a few months can make you sick of anything.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      Yeah, I can’t imagine only playing one game forever. Variety is healthy and good. If I’ve spent a 100+ hours on a game that’s more likely to make me not want to play it again for a loooong time, or at all. How else would I get around to playing all the other games in my backlog? Or do anything else? I mean, I put a ton of time into the Witcher 3 and it was amazing but I’m not playing that again any time soon.

  5. Josh Grams says:

    Isn’t the Noclip guy named Danny O’Dwyer (not O’Dyer)?

  6. malkav11 says:

    Blades in the Dark is pretty fabulous. And hackable – there’s already at least one commercially available hack called Scum and Villainy that moves the criminal action into spacelanes and star empires, and people are working on things like adapting Shadowrun to it (it’s pretty perfect) – presumably not commercially in this case, unless they file off the Shadowrun IP – and a currently Kickstarting hack called Hack the Planet about being cyberpunk criminals in an ongoing climate-based apocalypse.