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The Sunday Papers

Sunday are for getting back to long delayed Numenera campaigns, to refresh your memory about what those people want who did the thing after the other thing happened in the place where we were at. It's great! You should play it.

  • Simon Parkin continues to do fine work at the New Yorker, writing about Destiny's unintended critique of consumerism:
  • Video games like Destiny are entire worlds that are governed by the rules and systems that their designers lay down. Because of this, they often take on the systems of the culture in which they are created, in this case, late capitalism. You are thrust into a world, told to work (here, your work is to harvest glimmer, a currency dropped by aliens), and use the fruits of your labor to improve your equipment. These upgrades allow you to work more quickly, more efficiently, or for greater gains. In this way, the ecosystem of investment and yield is established, an Ouroboros that is both irresistible and, by design, never completely satisfying.

  • Polygon write about the three lives of Blizzard, which is full of reflective thoughts from Blizzard employees on what World of Warcraft did to and for the company.
  • Metzen refers to this growth as "the high-class problem of World of Warcraft’s success." He admits that it was a struggle to hold Blizzard’s culture together as the company transformed into something bigger than had ever been planned. He describes himself as "holding the line" and focusing on "exercising the values of who we are."

    "Maybe this is too harsh, but World of Warcraft’s success was one of the biggest challenges we ever faced," he says. "It challenged our character. It challenged our culture, the growth and the complexity, for a team that had been very tight.

  • It seemed to be a week for remembering old game magazines. Over at Eurogamer, Rick Lane remembers PC Zone and Left 4 Dead and the moment when the two overlapped. PC Zone, for those who don't know, was like PC Gamer except rubbish, less good, poison and awful.
  • I didn't grow up wanting to be a games journalist. I grew up wanting to write for PC Zone. This is an important distinction. For most of my adolescence PC Zone was the only source of gaming news and reviews that I read, the likes of Steve Hill, Rhianna Pratchett, Paul Presley, Richie Shoemaker and all the other fantastic writers that magazine employed were the only voices that I trusted. I was stupidly loyal to that glossy paper rectangle. I rubbished PC Gamer without ever reading it (I've since read and written for Gamer. It's a great mag but for goodness sake don't tell anyone I said that). Heck, I even remember the first copy that I bought myself - it had the Nomad Soul on the cover, that bizarre RPG with David Bowie in it.

  • We're into review season now, which means there'll be more of those in these pages than normal during the weeks ahead. Over at Eurogamer, Tom "Tom Bramwell" Bramwell delivers his verdict on FIFA 15's Ultimate Team mode. Insightful.
  • However, FIFA 15 has also de-emphasised the muscularity of last year in places - despite "Physical" replacing "Heading" as a base attribute - so it's harder for defenders to contain attackers just by tugging on their shoulder, while laying a hand on anyone in the penalty area results in a foul. These things, in combination with the way shooting and heading have been stifled and dribbling has been enhanced, mean that the most common approach by far is fast, technically capable teams. A typical XI usually includes two really fast attackers along with midfielders who can play quarterback to runners further downfield, and while that results in intense, end-to-end football, it is so much more effective than anything else that it also quickly becomes repetitive. Perhaps things will change over time as we learn the game better (and, I suspect, as EA issues the traditional balancing patch), but for the moment it feels like Ultimate Team isn't encouraging much variety in play style.

  • Obviously Adam's review was the best, but if you're looking for more words on Alien Isolation to sate (or whet) your appetite ahead of its release on Tuesday, then Andy Kelly's review at PC Gamer should do the trick. PC Gamer, for those who don't know, is like RPS except rubbish, less good, poison and awful. Jokes! These are like jokes.
  • Ripley Junior being an engineer is as good an excuse as any to add a crafting system to the game. Raw materials litter your surroundings and can be taped together to create useful items. As well as the noisemakers and Molotovs, you can make smoke bombs, EMP mines for disabling synthetics, and blinding flashbangs. The effects of these are all temporary, but if you stun an android with a mine, you can whack it over the head with your wrench for an easy kill. Flares can be tossed to lure the alien, and if you toast it with your flamethrower it'll scream and run away—but not for long. Combining items and weapons in interesting ways, and playing with the enemy AI, gives the game a lot of unexpected depth, and kept it interesting for the entirety of the 25 hours it took me to finish it.

  • Ian Bogost, as previously noted, is on fine form. Here he is at The Atlantic on Future Ennui.
  • I’m less interested in accepting wearables given the right technological conditions as I am prospectively exhausted at the idea of dealing with that future’s existence. Just think about it. All those people staring at their watches in the parking structure, in the elevator. Tapping and stroking them, nearly spilling their coffee as they swivel their hands to spin the watch’s tiny crown control.

    A whole new tech cliché convention: the zoned-out smartwatch early adopter staring into his outstretched arm, like an inert judoka at the ready. The inevitable thinkpieces turned non-fiction trade books about “wrist shrift” or some similarly punsome quip on the promise-and-danger of wearables.

  • I have been picking my way through the archives of the Daft Souls podcast, which is led by Matt Lees but regularly features the like of Quintin, Paul Dean, Jon Blyth, Keza MacDonald and other good eggs. I like the ones where they talk about JRPGs.
  • Obviously you should be listening to Crate & Crowbar, the PC gaming podcast I do with some friends in Bath. John joined us for the latest episode.
  • Over at Amusement Arcade, Rab Florence announced that he's making a new computer game show - for us. This is mainly just a reminded to go read Amusement Arcade, because it's Rab, and more Rab is good Rab.
  • I like Pendleton Ward, creator of Adventure Time.
  • And so, Ward confesses, one day during Season Five, unbeknownst to his fans, "I quit because it was driving me nuts."

    He says this not with sadness or frustration, but with relief. "For me, having quality of life outweighed the need to control this project and make it great all the time." So he stepped down from running Adventure Time to become simply one of the show's writers and storyboard artists.

    Asked if he'd ever want to create another TV show, Ward responds with horror: "No, never. That sounds like a nightmare!"

  • Telomere shortening is pretty interesting.
  • This, on a book about the Chilean mine disaster, is worth reading, as is the New Yorker article which excerpts the book, linked within. Our own planet inspires a kind of unknowable cosmic dread.
  • Music this week is a series of Japanese lady indie bands. Try the no-caps tricot, the all-caps SHISHAMO, and the correct-caps Unemployed Drifter.

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