The Monday Papers
Mondays are for eating your housemate's (freely given) banana bread. I wish I was the type who spent their weekends actually baking banana bread, but here we are instead, reading the best writing about videogames from the past week.
For EGM, Mark Hill spoke to the authors of Second Life's official guides, which include titles like "The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Second Life: Making Money in the Metaverse". What a time to be alive.
It turned out that business in Second Life worked when it involved Second Life, when you were selling cool clothes, running a fun social hangout, or offering more erotic animations. But no one really wanted an elaborate digital façade for their non-SL business dealings. In a section called “Helping Outside Customers Understand What Second Life Is About” that now looks prescient, a user recounts a story where “an outside female client came into Second Life and happened upon a Gorean slave girl. ‘It was not pretty,’ Foolish said of the client’s reaction to seeing a female avatar in a slave-like situation. ‘But the fact is, if she was warned and educated about the fact that nobody in Second Life can really be forced to do anything, the situation might have been avoided.” That may have been true, but why talk your clients into conducting business in an environment that also caters to Gorean slave girls in the first place? SL doesn’t host business meetings anymore, but people are still “Looking to get into GOR” today.
On VG247, I liked Jeremy Peel's article highlighting people who've worked on Hideo Kojima games who are not Hideo Kojima. Never trust an auteur, even if you like the stuff they make - alongside others.
It’s a perception the man has encouraged himself – if he ever had a child, he’d probably write A Hideo Kojima Game in cursive on the umbilical cord. And that ego grants his work a particular flavour, which is welcome, even when that flavour is Monster Energy.
But it’s important to remember that Kojima doesn’t make his games alone. That when he talks about starting up Kojima Productions as an independent with just a laptop, a piece of string and a packet of Polos, he’s missing out the contribution of many loyal and long-serving collaborators who keep his work consistent and recognisable. That when somebody like legendary producer Kenichiro Imaizumi exits Kojima Productions, the hole they leave behind is like a voidout.
For Welcome Collection, Holly Gramazio continued her series about how to play games. Her latest is on secret games, often played by yourself. If you're reading this in public you are probably a pawn in someone else's imagination, and you should be glad.
People play secretly for a lot of different reasons. Maybe someone feels playful, but they’re too self-conscious to play visibly – in a world where play and games are often thought of as childish or inappropriate, it’s natural to want to avoid the judgement of strangers. (As part of my work in public play I’ve secretly watched several different hopscotch grids where passing adults don’t visibly acknowledge the grid, and definitely don’t hop, but do carefully step from square to square in a way that a casual observer wouldn’t spot.)
For PCGamer, Alex Wiltshire dug into how indie developers price their games, and asked an economist how they might do better. This bit seems on point, even if it does constitute business rudely intruding into game design.
There's behavioral pricing, which attempts to change attitudes towards value. Many customers will psychologically link a $10 game to other $10 games, but a $30 price might signal that it's better than the crowd. Alternatively, there's ‘Goldilocks pricing' which guides attitudes: make three versions, one cheap, one expensive, and many customers will plump for the one that feels just right in the middle. Or they could relate a game to its existing exemplars through its pricing. So they can advertise, say, a Civ-like game as 20% cheaper than Civilisation, rather than price it with the low price of other indie strategy games.
For Gamastrua, Ryan Sumo examined what a healthy relationship between a studio and a publisher looks like, citing their own positive experiences on the development end. It could be a very useful resource if you're in such a situation, and if not it's still interesting to see the specifics picked at.
Publisher and developer relations have always been fraught with peril. There is a natural imbalance that occurs when a much more experienced entity with capital deals with a financially naive developer that wants to put their art out into the wider world. Recent news has borne this out, as I have heard of another publisher mistreating or wilfully misleading a developer. The point of this article is not to name and shame (and honestly, depending on when you actually read this, I could be referring to an issue from 2019 or from 2022), but rather to show what a healthy publisher/developer relationship can look like.
For Kotaku, Gita Jackson spoke to geese experts about geese representation in Untitled Goose Game. The main takeaway is to avoid giving geese to small children.
Scheiber said that in general, geese aren’t going to bother you as much as they do the humans in Untitled Goose Game. In fact, one waterfowl expert I spoke to requested anonymity because they thought that the game might give geese a bad name. This person stressed that geese, in general, are well behaved and not aggressive. When they do become aggressive, it’s most likely because they are defending a nest. But at the end of the day, geese are animals, and no matter how close you are to a goose, they will behave like an animal. A gosling that’s given to a child as a pet will, in a few weeks, grow to the size of that same child, and then attempt to assert its dominance.
I haven't watched this GDC talk about game studios as co-operatives yet, but I'm interested to see how different teams approach the idea.
Graham pinned this deep sea exploration thingamy up in the treehouse earlier this week, causing us all to stop working and marvel at terrible claw lobsters. Penguins dive real deep, turns out.
Here's a load of people pointing at cool games they like on Itch. You could probably use it to also find a cool game you like on Itch.
Music this week is Absolute Loser by Fruit Bats.