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The Sunday Papers

Every week we're Sundaying

Sundays are for baking scones and playing videogames. Endless Legend? NEO Scavenger? MGSV: Ground Zeroes? Bayonetta? I can't decide. Perhaps some fine writing about videogames will help point me in the right direction.

  • Kill Screen write on the architecture of Silent Hill 2 in The Basement's Basement. One day Adam is going to turn up at my house and force me to play this game.
  • Silent Hill 2’s architecture, along with its iconic blend of fog and darkness, is its main antagonist. Returning to the game after all these years, it's surprising to find that its enemies are barely a threat, its puzzles mostly “lock and key” affairs and its bosses require a single tactic—point and shoot. But navigating its dim hallways, cramped rooms and sprawling titular town can be a challenging affair. Overlooking a detail in the dark, forgetting to check a door, even missing the map for an area, forcing you to go by memory—these are the game’s central struggles. Perhaps this is due to the ambiguous nature of much of the game’s environments: There are more locked doors than open ones, more dead-ends than ways ahead. Sometimes it almost feels like poor level design, especially when you find yourself in a corridor of 10 locked cells, rattling each handle as you go. But there is sense behind this system, if not sanity—this is videogame architecture that is as unhinged as its broken doors.

  • The latest Embed with... is good stuff, with Cara in Japan in search of an indie development scene. She finds Ojiro Fumoto who, inspired by Western indie games, is making a game called Downwell. It's a Spelunky-style roguelike platformer about descending a well with guns for shoes.
  • "When do you get time to develop Downwell?" I ask, the waitress delivering our food. Ojiro’s in his final year at Tokyo University of the Arts. He told me on the way here he is studying opera singing, probably the first time any game developer has ever expressed an interest in opera.

    “I don’t have many classes. I spend most of my time developing. I have lots of freedom since I’m not married or anything. I don’t have much money but I don’t need much money either. I think I decided at a good time to become a game developer.”

  • Douglas Warrick wrote a primer to Twine this past week, which does a good job of summarising the strengths of the text game platform and offering examples of it being put to good use. Lots that's worth playing, if you haven't already.
  • Star Court by Anna Anthropy is an excellent place to start if you’re looking for a gateway into Twine games. By virtue of their text-heaviness and the ephemeral attention spans of browser-game players, Twine games seem to lend themselves to shorter formats. There are plenty of brilliant Twine games that take weeks to explore, but plenty also that overestimate the player’s ability to devote more than a single evening to a text-based browser game. Star Court is only as long as it needs to be. It takes about ten minutes to make your way through a single playthrough of Star Court, although you’ll want to give it a couple more goes to see what you missed.

  • Kotaku's Jason Schreier looked at Ubisoft's interproject "game developer limbo", a place where employees not currently attached to specific game projects are sent while they apply to other game teams within the publisher. Sort of grim, how-the-sausage-is-made stuff.
  • This is "interproject," a little-known department at Ubisoft Montreal that houses developers who are between games. When a Ubisoft game is shipped, or cancelled, the company will sometimes send employees to interproject, where they wind up applying for new positions within the company, occasionally helping out other teams, and watching movies all day until they're reassigned… or laid off. Anywhere from 50 to 100 employees might work in interproject at a time, according to people who have worked there, and though they'll sometimes be dragooned for game teams that need extra help, they spend most of their days doing whatever they want.

  • Bayonetta is brilliant, Bayonetta 2 is apparently great also, but the main character is troubling to many. Maddy Myers considers the monster-fighting hair-suit wearer in an article on the male gaze: Femme Doms of Videogames: Bayonetta Doesn't Care If She's Not Your Kink.
  • In other words, “male gaze” is a phrase that makes a lot of assumptions, and none of them make sense in the context of games. When we use this phrase, we assume the game’s developers are male; this is true most of the time, but not all of the time nowadays (thank goodness). We also pretend to know what “all” men might like to gaze at—women’s butts, apparently? I doubt that. We discount the interests of non-men entirely, since any enjoyment they might have is considered “unintentional” on the part of the creators, and therefore irrelevant.

  • Polygon went big on the making of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare this past week, charting the formation of developer Sledgehammer with the kind of pomp and breathless awe normally reserved for rags-to-riches indies or the creation of Doritos tacos shells.
  • "I remember being asked all the time, 'What's the main mechanic?'" says Schofield. "And I would say, 'Well, there's two things. It's about the advanced soldier, and the main mechanic is the exoskeleton.' And Bret Robbins, who's my right-hand man on everything creative here — he and I were getting frustrated. Because we were like, 'Well, we keep saying this over and over.' And I remember [Activision Senior Vice President] Rob Kostich saying to me, 'You really believe in this exoskeleton?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, Rob, the boost jump and everything else we're starting to do — it's the real deal.' And once Rob and then Eric gave it a thumbs up, everybody just got behind."

  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward failed to hit its Kickstarter target, meaning the first game to boast an official HP Lovecraft license will lay dormant for another eon. This Kickstarter update offers a mini post-mortem of why it maybe didn't find the funds.
  • Many of you have been saying we should relaunch the campaign, but this was our best shot. There’s no way we can achieve again the momentum we had during the first three days. I can’t stress this enough: the announcement of Charles Dexter Ward was huge. Between our pre-launch campaign, buzz on Twitter, local and international celebrities supporting us, our own posts that went viral, and a massive article in the second-biggest newspaper in Argentina, I estimate well over 100,000 people heard about Charles Dexter Ward. And again, that was only during the first three days of the campaign. It boggles the mind, then, that barely 2,000 people have backed the game — with such a strong launch and the evident appeal of the project, a year ago we’d easily have reached $400k.

  • Idle Thumbs are hosting a new podcast. In Designer Notes, Civilization IV designer Soren Johnson interviews game designers about why they make games. The first episode is with Rob Pardo, the former Chief Creative Officer of Blizzard.
  • A collection of screenshots from Half-Life 1 engine custom maps.
  • There's been a bunch more Every Frame A Painting videos since I last linked the series, which dissects cinematography in film. I enjoyed this most recent video, which will convince you there was subtlety to be found in Snowpiercer.
  • Music this week is not 1989 by Taylor Swift, because I haven't got it yet. Instead I've been bouncing to parts of the new Yelle album. Start here.

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