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The Sunday Papers


Sunday Papers is late today because I was having too much fun reading the articles. No kidding! Why not join me?

  • An important work of statistics: Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun has 2.87 bridges per level.
  • Relatedly linked within, this post-mortem of Tiberiun Sun from 2000.
  • Tiberian Sun features three new systems that resulted in an unpredictable schedule. First, we switched our core graphics engine to an isometric perspective in order to enhance the game’s 3D look. This resulted in a cascade effect of broken systems that weren’t anticipated. Bridges that could be destroyed and rebuilt, for example, wound up taking over ten times as long to program as we originally estimated. Adding bridges complicated systems such as path-finding, Z-buffering, rendering, unit behavior, and AI.

  • Over at Gamasutra, Leigh Alexander writes about Street Wars, a "live action watergun assassination tournament". I have read about such things before, but never from the perspective of a participant who has gone all-in. This is the sort of thing that doesn't come to Georgian Bath.
  • ...I also can’t see anything. A white-bearded man walks past, looks down at the bizarre interloper and frowns a little. Okay. Probably this isn’t an ideal place to wait.

    Time passes as I stalk the parking lot. I get tired. I get cold. I get desperate. When a resident emerges through the apartment building’s big security door I sidle in without a second glance, unremarked upon. I reach the target’s floor and I stand in his elevator lobby, my phone is rattling in my hand, my knuckles are adrenaline-locked. I feel deeply I am in a place I do not belong. It’s a good thing there are no security cameras here…. because it’s a good ten minutes before I think to look for them. Fuck.

  • Tom Mayo has a blog now! Recently he wrote about wrestling games, and how there has never been a pro-wrestling videogame. I have only a sideways interest in wrestling, but this is good:
  • Pro wrestling is storytelling. It’s big, brash, funny, dramatic, comic booky, often crude, action-packed storytelling.

    A wrestling videogame shouldn’t be about hitting buttons frantically until the other guy stops moving, it should be about telling a story to an audience.

  • For a little while, Laura Michet was my favourite new writer writing about games. Then she stopped writing about games. Years later, she explains why:
  • The post was very obviously an attempt to set me up for trolling and online harassment. It was abundantly clear on our website that I do not have a PhD, that I don’t frequently play or discuss mainstream JRPGs, and that I don’t hate Bioware games. The person who said those things wasn’t interested in talking about my article with anyone; he was hoping to rile his readers into seeing me as a fair-game target for the community’s vitriol. And it worked! Our site was filled with people calling me a cunt. Even more people were calling me a cunt on that forum.

  • It's a pretty depressing read. Let's wallow in this feeling further by re-visiting some of Michet's old work, which was always insightful and funny. Why all the dungeons in Oblivion look the same; a field guide to "X IS NOT A GAME"; the little known world of competitive Minesweeper; and the one I'll quote below, 'Life sucks. And then you die from a broken Digestive Function'.
  • Later, the free Docking Bay add-on let you trade norns with randos over the internet. I once downloaded a female norn, oddly named ‘Oma,’ who was trapped in an eternal pregnancy. Her sprite was, anyway. She was a generation 1148 beast (my best was only 15 consecutive C3 generations) who had been bred for ultra-short gestation periods. Her babies popped out in seconds—but all were afflicted with the dreaded Fast Growth gene, a hated mutation in the C3 community. Fast Growth norns were usually colored in the ugliest possible way, susceptible to disease, and likely to be born crippled, with severe mental deficiencies or ultra-short lifespans. It took me months of experimentation to weed the Fast Growth gene out of Oma’s kids.

  • Dwarf Fortress generates enormous world histories. Why don't more games do this, preferring instead to spend their computational power on accurate physics modelling? Play the Past asks, did it have to be this way?
  • In his book From Sun Tzu to Xbox, Ed Halter (2006) makes a very convincing argument that many of the conventions in videogames that we take for granted can be traced back to constraints that were placed by many of the early developers of computing technology. As he notes, early computers like the ENIAC , with its stored memory and its binary language of ones and zeros, were created for purposes such as calculating ballistic tables. As computers advanced, their development continued to be shaped by large Cold War military projects, such as the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE), which made large contributions both to the graphical capabilities of computers, through the creation of the “display scope,” and to the development of input devices, in the form of the light gun. A decade later, when Steve Russell was creating Spacewar! at MIT, the PDP-1 he was working on still looked remarkably similar to the original SAGE display scopes.

  • Each day this past week, Richard Cobbett has been reading and revealing and reveling in a different videogame novelization. Why does he torture himself so? For your entertainment.
  • Looking for more sources of excellent videogame writing? Critical Distance continues to do stellar work.

Thanks to everyone who came with electronic, doom-heavy music suggestions last week. I'll be picking through the links for a long time, though I've been particularly enjoying James Holden so far.

Speaking of crowdsourcing materials, let's break the illusion of expertise. I'm just a person. Sunday Papers is compiled each week by me frantically reading what game articles I can between also trying to play all the games, write news, book Gamescom appointments, etc. All I have is taste and a platform, which means it's likely your collective brain will be aware of far more quality writing than I. Are there writers - outside of the obvious crowd - who I should be following and featuring? Email me. Maybe we can stop a few of the good ones from being driven away.

Music this week is a lot of jazz. Unsquare Dance by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Moanin' by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.

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