Sundays are for playing Numenera with good friends, but not before assembling a bumper crop of the week's best games writing and videoing.
- Philippa Warr writes about PolitkerStarCraft, a StarCraft tournament in which representatives from Sweden's political parties do battle. I love that this exists:
- Craig Lager enjoys and knows a lot about racing simulations. Tom Hatfield used to give his friends lifts to Nandos. With Craig behind the wheel and Tom as his Skype-using, instruction yelling co-driver, they attempted to complete a safari rally track in co-op.
- Wouldn't it be simpler if we could just discount Kotaku completely? Unfortunately the site continues to publish good work, and in greater amounts now that Kotaku UK is up and running. Dave Owen speaks to some designs about how Islamic art can influence game design:
- Keza MacDonald goes for more contentious ground with Why Do Fanboys Behave Like Such Jerks? She speaks to a clinical psychologist for some possible answers:
It’s revealing to learn that the brain chemicals involved in fanboyism are, startlingly, very similar. “It’s like falling in love - what happens then is that you get a tsunami of a neurotransmitter called dopamine into the brain, which gives you a huge buzz,” says Dr Lewis. “This happens with products, they can do exactly the same thing - in fact when we look at addictive behaviour, we find that people become addicted to products. That’s how people become obsessive collectors of things like Barbies. The sight, feel, taste, touch of the product will evoke these huge responses in the brain, like getting a high.”
- Finally, back to Dave Owen for this feature about Alan Kwan, a Hong Kong-based artist recorded his life for two years and turned it into an explorable virtual landscape.
- While playing Hearthstone one night, Eurogamer writer Wesley Yin-Poole was matched against Jeffrey "Trump" Shih, the world's first professional Hearthstone player. This is very cute:
- Videogames are exciting! Need more proof? Watch Marsh Davies and Rich Stanton play Dark Souls 1's New Game Plus mode while discussing its hot lore.
- Azeroth Choppers is a reality series about teams from Blizzard competing to design the best World of Warcraft-themed motorbike. "That sounds dumb," you think, already clicking the link and leaning back to watch it. I liked the first ep.
- Gamasutra's Brandon Sheffield tried to talk to Nintendo about indie games, to put a human face to their policies. Those policies made that impossible. I can think of nothing more boring than Nintendo simply doing what everyone else does in pursuit of greater profits, but half-hearted attempts hurt them more than doing nothing at all.
- Speaking of Nintendo, I can't get enough of Official Nintendo Magazine's Matt Castle. Just in general, but also of the Expert Super Guide videos he makes with Gav Murphy and Joe Skrebels by his side. This week he plays through NES Remix 2. Hot politeness tips.
- There's nothing revelatory in this Half-Life 2 retrospective, but it triggered enough fond memories to make me read the whole thing.
- The recent firing of Marty O'Donnell from Bungie prompted Tom Bramwell to muse on the importance of music to videogames, and how much attention we pay to it.
- Your one not-about-games link this week.
On April 13, Sweden's political parties took to the maps of StarCraft II in a struggle for digital supremacy and bragging rights in the ultimate rematch. The PolitikerStarcraft tournament first took place in 2010 in the run up to the Swedish general election. Back then, victory went to the Liberal Party who scored first place in the gaming contest as well as a sort-of first place at the polls as part of a four-party coalition government. With another general election looming, Jonathan Rieder Lundkvist resurrected PolitikerStarcraft, challenging each party in parliament, as well as the Feminist Initiative and the Pirate Party, to field a worthy StarCraft II contender.
Tom: We’re nearing the finish and we’ve somehow stayed on the track. All that’s left is the final section. Unfortunately because we keep having to start from the beginning again, this is the part I know the least about. For instance I know there are a lot of crests in a row, but I’m not exactly confident on the number.
Still it’s just a few hills, easy enough to navigate. I’ll just have to break it to Craig gently.
“Hill, hill, hill. Another hill. Possible one more hill? Or maybe two? It could be three actually. Basically there’s an indeterminate number of hills ahead, but then we’re finished.”
Over time the taboos binding Islamic artists have been stretched and reinterpreted, leading to art that does depict people and nature. But strict adherence in the ancient world forced the vast majority of artists to express their feelings through abstract mathematics. The link to video games might appear tenuous at first. But both Todd and Bahrami believe that the spirit of Islamic art can be an effective model for game design. “After hundreds of years those abstract shapes still seem interesting, beautiful, and mathematically meaningful,” says Bahrami. “Maybe we can design games in the same way.”
The memories themselves are stacked crates that murmur and giggle and sigh. Walk through them and the visitor catches glimpses of Kwan walking the streets of Hong Kong, eating lunch with friends, relaxing on a beach.
“As an artist I’m very interested in exploring how emerging technologies are impacting our cultures and changing our perceptions towards memory, life, and death,” says Kwan. “I became very interested in lifelogging. The idea of how these technologies can enable us to ‘remember everything’ is very fascinating to me.”
"I'm playing Trump!" I screamed to my wife. She immediately grabbed the iPad and loaded up his Twitch channel. A few turns in she returned. I glanced at the screen and yes, there was my Battletag in the top left hand corner of the screen. Yes, I was indeed playing Trump. And yes, over 20,000 people were watching. This was real. It was happening. It was the video game equivalent of trying to tackle my footballing hero, Gianfranco Zola, in front of a packed Matthew Harding Stand.
I decided to speak with two eShop developers and one publisher to get some actual numbers. A developer of a 3D action game sold 1,000 units in the U.S., and 400 in Europe in their first month. They're hoping to eventually reach sales of 5,000. A developer of a casual game sold fewer than 3,000 units across EU and NA in six months, but got a similar number in Japan in just one month. The publisher I spoke to, which is very experienced in the eShop space, told me that with the sort of game I was pitching -- an action puzzle game -- I could expect an income ceiling of about $2,000, and I should plan accordingly.
In some ways, the decision to pursue the episodic model may have actually hampered Valve’s creative freedom. Part of what made Half-Life 2 so immersive was its detachment from the original - it captured a feeling of stepping into a new and unfamiliar world. This was made possible by the original game’s highly open ending, which left the fate of Black Mesa unknown. By concluding Half-Life 2 with similarly broad strokes - Gordon back in stasis and City 17’s future unresolved - Valve ensured themselves the same level of creative freedom for Half-Life 3.
Marty O'Donnell's departure from Bungie came as a shock to many people, but one of the more unusual aspects of the reaction was what he actually did for the Destiny and Halo developer. We're used to storytellers and game designers attracting attention when they leave or are dismissed, but this is the first time I can remember that a composer got fired and people realised what a big loss it would be.
Music this week is this.