Skip to main content

The Sunday Papers

Words as words

Sundays are for getting back to Game Maker after too long away. But first, tight words on the many games we haven't had enough time to play yet ourselves.

  • Dominions 4 is brilliant: a turn-based strategy game about warring gods which contains tremendous variety, and which is therefore an excellent candidate for a prolonged game diary. Tom Senior at PC Gamer has just started one - or rather, previously started one in the magazine and it's now appearing online.
  • There are dozens of nations, and even more types of god. The warring deities aren’t invisible, hands-off types, either. They have corporeal forms and abilities that you define for yourself at the game’s outset. Your god can be a dragon that excels in fire magic, or a giant white bull that happens to be an expert necromancer. One of the godly forms you can use is simply a pile of haunted old bones. The form the god takes informs its stats, magical ability and how it moves around.

    I’m going to win Dominions 4 as a giant stationary hunk of rock. Or try to, anyway. I could have been a monster riding a giant grey ape. I could have been one of three dragons. I could have been lots of things, but none have the charm and comedy sprite of the noble, silent obelisk.

  • Over at Gamasutra, Leigh Alexander introduces Ledoliel, an iOS game about alien diplomacy. It sounds wonderful.
  • It's exceptionally clean, stylish, from the monochrome palette to the way the screen turns red with failure messages like "Elnashivec lays flies in your hands, killing you.". And it's simple to play with: Basically, the offworlders each have three personality traits (greedy, wise, pestilent; sadist, childish, evil), and you have a selection of "devices", and it's about offering the right things for the right traits, in the right way.

    Using only your devices, your best guess about the alien's traits, and the verbs SAY, TOUCH and GIVE, You just have to survive as many interactions on as many tiny planets as you can. I can discuss things like "mansion" "food" "kitten", and have them either warmly received or coldly repudiated. I have touched an alien's food, talked about drugs with it, and offered pain. I have been told it feels accepting toward me. And I have had brambles invoked in my throat, bolts shot in my heart, needles fed into my throat.

  • Jenn Frank's article about Destiny - about how game design impacts relationships and can force any bystander into unwelcome roles - is insightful:
  • Later, Ted tells me there is no “pause,” not in the sense where games often have a “pause.” He isn’t even playing multiplayer; he is on a solo mission. “I can’t put the game down,” he explains to me, helplessly.

    This, I do understand.

    I am not angry with Ted. I am furious with Destiny, however.

  • Nathan Ditum has started blogging again, which is good news for those who enjoy smartly written film criticism and meditations on the past. There's this about a visit to his childhood home, this about David Lynch and the Twin Peaks re-release, and this about videogame places and memory, which I've quoted below:
  • What were the things I really wanted to write about? One of them was about playing Doom for the first time in over a decade, and how the fluent thrill of running automatically through corridors and killboxes impressed on my memory through endless repetition was interrupted by a sudden, wordless urge not to approach a specific doorway. As the memory was excavated and solidified, as surrounding shapes and landmarks oriented themselves into forgotten familiarity, I knew there was something hidden behind the door. The feeling stayed with me because, I thought, it seemed so much like walking into a real childhood scene, a once-inherent geography that lights up dormant corners of memory and belonging. And that’s exactly how it did feel, when we reached my grandma’s old flat in the Stockwell Park Estate: it wasn’t clear which block was hers, and then it suddenly was, it was this way, under this bridge and above this car park.

  • Back over at PC Gamer, how Game Maker is being used to create more hit indie games than people realise, and why there's still a perception problem or false assumptions about low-barrier game making tools:
  • But even so, GameMaker to some degree still carries a stigma—a problem that largely stems from confirmation bias. "There's nothing about many great GameMaker games that's particularly technologically advanced," Francis said. "The problem is that if something looks good, people don't ask themselves how it was made. They just see a game. But if they see something really crude that was made by a complete amateur, and then they find out it was made in GameMaker, that's the perception that sticks.

  • A visual tour - lots of screenshots plus contextualizing commentary - of Snatcher. It's what Kojima did before [as wilynumber13 pointed out in the comments, after the first] Metal Gear, and there's lots of familiar cyberpunk-y style in its old, still-beautiful sprites. Worth remembering.
  • RPS comrade Dan Griliopoulos has been both games journalist and games PR. When he offers up a basic marketing and PR plan for indies, it's best to listen:
  • PRs are expensive and best placed when dealing with large numbers of large visible media targets who don’t move around much. Their careful mixture of quartermaster and pimp is appropriate given the industry’s origins in wartime propaganda departments. They’re best when using their extensive contacts or cold-calling relevant media to place stories. Using them for an indie campaign is like building battleships when you’re fighting insurgents.

  • How can journalists be objective when writing about dead children?
  • “I can’t get these images out of my mind,” said Snow, describing a small girl he met in hospital, “terribly crippled by shrapnel that had penetrated her spine.” Was that objective, some asked?

    Well, I admit it: I have been losing my cool. During the week, I decided that it didn’t make sense for me to write about Gaza any more. I was no longer interested in sitting calmly at my desk turning out more apparently ordered sentences, purporting to run smoothly from one solid proposition to another. At times, I feel shut down by the sheer horror of it all, encased in some bitter despondency, unable properly to process the frustration.

  • Related.
  • "My tears pale into insignificance compared to those of the people in Gaza, who are suffering intolerably," he said. "But we have now reached a point of such profound tragedy that tears are more eloquent than words."

Music this week is Velour by Darius. But, I am in the market for some instrumental, electronic, doom-heavy music. Ambient or dancey, recommendations in the comments please.

Read this next