Posts Tagged ‘books’

The RPG Scrollbars: Artbooks Of Adventure

I’m a big fan of artbooks, which is quite lucky since not only are there plenty of them around right now, the quality of them has never been better. Forget the scrappy little affairs that used to be used to bolster out the Collector’s Editions of games, much as concept art used to fill in for interesting secrets to unlock. Today’s artbooks are typically huge, prestigious affairs, that come hardbound and printed on excellent quality paper. You might not put them on your coffee table, but they certainly look great on the shelf. This week, I thought we’d take a look at a few of the RPG ones that have found their way to mine – not all the recent ones by any stretch, but a few.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Usborne Origins

Earlier this month, Usborne re-released something very special – its iconic 80s books on game programming. Talk about nostalgia in PDF format. I remember these so well, particularly the two that my junior school had back in the day – Write Your Own Fantasy Games and Write Your Own Adventure Programs. They’re a genuine slice of UK game development history, not so much because of the very simple games that they contained, but the basic message that it was even possible to write your own.

Well. The BASIC message, at least. These were more primitive times.

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The 10 Best Games Based On Books

Books! They’re like films without pictures, or games that are all cutscene. Old people and hipsters really like them, teenagers think they’re like totally lame, and quite frankly we should all read more of them. There are countless games inspired by books – most especially Tolkien, Lovecraft and early Dungeons & Dragon fiction – but surprisingly few games based directly on books. Even fewer good ones.

Perhaps one of the reasons for that is that a game can, in theory, cleave closer to what a book does than a film can – with their length and their word counts, their dozens of characters and in some cases even their own in-game books, they can to some degree do the job of a novel. They don’t need to be based on books – and often they can do so much more, thanks to the great promise of non-linearity. Of course, the real reason for the dearth is that novels are so rarely the massive business a movie is these days. You might get a forlorn Hunger Games tie-in here and there, but suited people in gleaming office blocks just aren’t going to commission an adaptation of the latest Magnus Mills tale, more’s the pity.

I suspect that, over time, we’ll see the non-corporate side of games development increasingly homage the written word, but for now, these ten games (and seven honourable mentions) are, as far as I’m concerned, the best, and most landmark, results of page-to-pixel adaptation to date.

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Borges ‘Em Up: Intimate, Infinite

If I were to recommend one author to people wot like games, it’d be Argentine short story writer Jorges Luis Borges. Oh sure, video games crib from loads of fantasy and sci-fi authors, but that’s all set dressing. Borges is closer to what games are. His stories are often systems–rules, puzzles, and riddles–and concepts as much as they are narratives, all supporting each other. And, like the best games, his stories end once they’ve satisfactorily explored their ideas. Many devs I know dig him.

Intimate, Infinite might be a mite puzzling if you don’t know Borges, but I liked it. Released this week by Robert Yang (who did splendid interview-o-game-make series Level With Me for us), it’s an experimental collection of games adapting a Borges story or trying to capture some part of it.

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Wot I Read: Blizzard Biography ‘Stay Awhile And Listen’

Stay Awhile And Listen: How Two Blizzards Unleashed Diablo And Forged A Videogame Empire is David L. Craddock’s ebook unofficial biography of… well, it’s in the title, isn’t it? Consisting of reminisces from Blizzard staff, design insight and a document of how the then-games industry worked, it’s the tale of how plucky start-up Condor Inc became Blizzard North and created the grandaddy of action RPGs.
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Wot I Think: Wargames – From Gladiators To Gigabytes

Have you ever stopped to consider the origins of wargaming? Have you ever contemplated wargaming’s constantly changing relationship with the slavering hellbeast that is War? Martin van Creveld, an Emeritus Professor at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, has. He’s been thinking about questions like these for the last 25 years. The result is a new book called Wargames: From Gladiators to Gigabytes. I’ve read it and this is Wot I Think.

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Wot I Read – YOU: A Novel by Austin Grossman

They’re clearly lacing the drinking water at Arkane with Creative Itch Juice, as both Dishonored’s co-lead Harvey Smith and one of its writers, Austin Grossman, have put out novels in the last couple of months. Of course, both are esteemed games industry figures from long before that, having worked in the fabled Looking Glass/Ion Storm mines and contributed to some of the most-respected titles in PC gaming history. Unsurprising, then, that they’d have something to say about their experiences. I’m yet to read Smith’s Big Jack Is Dead – that’s next on my list – but I have made my way through YOU, Grossman’s fiction-ode to videogame development and his first novel since the popular supervillain tale Soon I Will Be Invincible.
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