Sundays are for resorting to crowdsourced suggestions about what Sundays are for. Hugging puppies and reading about video games, apparently.
PC Gamer’s Wes Fenlon has been WASDing wrong his whole life, and was nice enough to write about it so we can all laugh at him. Um, I mean, so we can all bond over the ‘anything goes’ configurability of PC control schemes. (But mostly so we can all put our hands on our keyboards in ways that feel unnatural and go ‘waaaah!’.)
I tried to contort my hand into this position. At first it felt freakish. I was tenting my fingers to stand on A, W, and D, but my brain still insisted the pinky belonged on A, too. I had to shove it to the side like a dead limb. After a few tries, I realized the natural orientation was simply shifting over to the left, and resting on A/S/D. The middle finger moves up to press W when needed. That still feels like madness to my 15 years of muscle memory, but I’ll admit resting my pinky on Shift does feel pretty great. It’s like a vacation: my pinky gets to sprawl out on a spacious, less-used key, and isn’t responsible for strafing at pivotal moments. It’s a lot of pressure, moving left.
There are several meaty No Man’s Sky interviews floating around, but I’m going to link to Keza MacDonald’s for the Guardian. That’s partly because it gives the best overview of the game’s development and the controversy surrounding it, but mainly because I snorted at this quote about butterflies.
I remember getting a death threat about the fact that there were butterflies in our original trailer, and you could see them as you walked past them, but there weren’t any butterflies in the launch game. I remember thinking to myself: ‘Maybe when you’re sending a death threat about butterflies in a game, you might be the bad guy.’
Also for the Guardian, Patrick Lum spoke to 8-4, a company that translates Japanese video games into English – and vice versa. My head is spinning at the prospect of translating virtually any joke across a culture, let alone those in Undertale. 8-4 do impressive work.
One hard to translate gag involves the characters Papyrus and Sans, two skeletal brothers who speak in their respective typefaces in English (the spindly Papyrus font and the much-maligned Comic Sans). In 8-4’s version, Papyrus speaks in a faux hand-drawn vertical script, while Sans speaks in a cutesy irreverent typeface one might find on an advert or television variety show.
On Eurogamer, Emily Gera spoke to the programmer behind a storytelling AI. “Sheldon County is an AI-powered podcast”, and one of the most exciting computational creativity projects I’ve come across. I wouldn’t be surprised if a day comes when human/AI collaborations becomes the norm for creative projects, not a novelty.
Sheldon County tells the story of a fictional American town and the people who inhabit it over the course of 150 years. It is the result of two programs that run in parallel: Hennepin, which simulates each day and night in the history of a fictional American county over 150 years, and Sheldon, which in turn sifts through this accumulated history to find the interesting storylines and dramatic nuggets that have actually emerged over the course of the simulation based on narrative patterns authored by Ryan.
I enjoyed Sean T. Collins piece on why the only good online fandom left is Dune. He makes a decent point about how exclaiming your fondness for certain franchises can feel like PR work, though the best bit is where he digs into Frank Herbert’s life.
Yet Herbert saw that great-man historical thinking led not just to Hitler and the Holocaust, but to Kennedy and Vietnam — a more sophisticated critique of imperialism than mainstream American liberalism has ever freely entertained. (Though in 1972 he worked as an ecologist with the South Vietnamese government on a land-reform project designed to win the hearts and minds of farmers to keep them from supporting the Communists. He also directed TV shows for a while. The man had a weird career.)
I linked to Ben Porter’s guide on how to take seven years making your game earlier this week, but it’s worth linking again. It’s admirably explanatory rather than apologetic, and funny to boot.
Developing a game by yourself can be lonely work, and thus you may find yourself creating a devlog. Good news! This is a great way to consume all that expendable time you have. Be sure to post frequently and in-depth about your game, to win awards for favourite devlog (because of all that time you are spending not making the game), and to end up with one of the biggest and most viewed devlogs. This is definitely your goal.
Bonus temporal adjustment points can be obtained by posting retrospective parody articles to Hacker News the day before your game comes out.
Mark Brown is making a video series highlighting the key ways game developers can make their games accessible to disabled people. It’s a great idea, and Brown’s first video on how games can facilitate deaf players is impressively thorough.
Reb Valentine “won’t shut up about good video game music”.
Music this week is Everyone Knows by Mipso, which has reminded me that the best songs always have fiddles in them.