Sundays are for attending the second of two weekend weddings and/or suffering the ill-effects of an illness. Fridays, meanwhile, are for preemptively writing a (shorter than normal) list of the week's best games writing, before we're laid low by viruses or alcohol.
- I enjoyed this brief post on the evolution of procedural generation, and what the future might be for computer-led art creation.
- I've been enjoying both Gwent and discussions with others about Gwent, but Joe Skrebels argues that The Witcher's 3 in-game card game misses the mark when it comes to the pleasures of playing cards. If only we could talk to the card-players, etc. etc.
- I and almost everyone else at RPS are entranced by Invisible, Inc.'s design, which is why it's our Game of the Month for June. Here's Klei designer James Lantz on one of the game's more divisive features, the alarm system, and the ways in which it does and does not work for people.
- John Carmack tweeted this old interview he did from 1999, which briefly covers thoughts on virtual reality, but is most interesting for its details on growing up.
- Robert Yang adapted his GDC 2015 talk into a post on his site, charting the history and future of the role of "level design".
- Rich Stanton's Heroes of the Storm review at Eurogamer is worth a read, as Rich's stuff invariably is.
I will be very specific about this. Procedural content based on local mathematical functions like Perlin, Voronoi, etc. cannot hold our interest and it is guaranteed to produce boring content. Procedural content based on simulation and AI can rival human nature and what humans create, but it is not fast enough for real time generation.
My point being that if titles like The Witcher are starting to make their card games more than distractions, it would be extremely cool to see them attempt to approximate something of what makes that Louie scene so special. I’m not naïve enough to say this would be easy, or even particularly useful to the game as a whole – but I am naïve enough to say that one game that I know of attempts this trick, and that that means others should try to take it on too.
For inspiration, we turned to the classic hunger mechanic in true roguelike games like Nethack. Hunger not only creates a sense of tension, it also creates a greater context for each move that gives players a structure in which to understand the rippling consequences of each decision. It also ties neatly into the existing systems through which players interact with the game, injecting new life into mechanics.
What’s hunger for a spy? How much she is detected, how much heat is on her, how much chatter is on the radio -- and so, we designed the alarm system.
I knew I wanted to work with computers from a very early age, but there were also a lot of other stereotypical geek aspects to my life growing up - phreaking, hacking (nobody called it "cracking" back then), rockets, bombs, and thermite (sometimes in not-so-smart combinations), sci-fi, comic books, D&D, arcades, etc.
I was sort of an amoral little jerk when I was young. I was arrogant about being smarter than other people, but unhappy that I wasn't able to spend all my time doing what I wanted. I spent a year in a juvenile home for a first offence after an evaluation by a psychologist went very badly.
This shift in workflow is about taking the construction out of level design. Level designers used to be artists, sculptors, modelers, and carpenters -- but today, the game industry has decided that a level designer is mostly an architect who draws a blueprint and manages labor.
Most industrial level designers might start with a design document or general concept pitch. Once approved, they would begin sketching a floorplan and paper prototyping some shapes. After another round of approvals, they make a greybox or simple 3D block-out (or hand it off to a "level builder") and do some playtesting in the graybox, then hand it off to the environment art team for an art pass.
There are games you don't have time for, and games you make time for. Then there's the kind of game Blizzard makes, which becomes a routine. Millions of World of Warcraft players, past and present, could speak for hours of their travels in Azeroth. Starcraft players act like it's a religion. Hearthstone's disarming charm hides a monster that Daily Quests you into coy submission and devours half-hour chunks over and again.
Add Heroes of the Storm to the list. Since gaining beta access around six months ago, Heroes of the Storm has become a part of my day. At lunchtime I play a few matches with a chum, at night I find time for more, and in-between I keep an eye on the subreddit and forums and YouTube. A lot of games feel brilliant for a week or two, and then afterwards you'll never touch them again. I can't stop playing Heroes of the Storm.
Music this week is Trap, a genre of which I was not previously familiar, and which I have accessed mainly via this YouTube channel.