The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for getting back to Gamer Maker after a few weeks of accomplishing little, and after making a to-do list and realising you've got about two years of work left. Sundays are also for gathering the week's best writing about videogames, so let's get started.
- Developer on Anthony Kyne on sports games and the delusion that they are uncreative. Sports games, and simulators generally, tend to make design decisions invisible to users, though it's dismaying to learn that they're also often invisible to fellow designers.
- At Kotaku, that Nathan Grayson chap suggests Valve create a metagame that incentivizes playing games from your backlog, just as they create metagames to inspire you to spend more money in sales. Nathan imagines it as part of a week-long event, but what if it was permanent, triggered by any game in your library that you've owned but not played for six months?
- Chris Donlan thinks a little about vapourware, in the wake of an E3 that saw revivals of games like The Last Guardian.
- Over at the Guardian, games writer Naomi Alderman argues that the BBC needs to tackle online gaming. I agree, and here's me taking more words and getting myself in a muddle in order to say something similar.
- Gunpoint creator Tom Francis writes about what works and why in non-linear detective game Her Story, without spoilers.
- From last year, but someone re-linked Leigh Alexander's article on Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I've only played two MGS games - MGS1 and Ground Zeroes - but this makes me tempted to visit the others.
- Steve Hogarty investigates the varied penises of Rust, because of course.
- PC Gamer continue to serialize Tom Francis' old Gal Civ 2 diary. This is from part three.
- Prompted by the announcement of Unravel at E3, Laura Hudson writes a brief history of yarn in videogames for Offworld.
- Matt Lees is doing his now traditional E3 Abridged videos, and they're as good as ever.
There is no one way to complete something in any of my 38+ released sports games, the user is free to do whatever they like against an AI opponent that wants to win as much as the user and is not rubber banded to the user's ability. Look at something like Deus Ex, one of my favourite games of all time, it’s lauded for having the ability to play the game as you like but it’s limited in comparison to something like Championship Manager. We have to create realistic decision making without scripting and we have to create a world where everyone is out to win and not provide easy routes for the user.
Imagine a metagame like that applied to our backlogs, playing them and discussing with them and engaging with them. Not just buying old games For A Steal and then letting them gather dust for several thousand years. A week all about games we already own, with maybe a handful of new releases tops. I don’t know about you, but I think that’d be pretty cool.
There's plenty to consider here, but what I've been ruminating on the most is this: How come some no-show games become legendary vapourware and others just get forgotten? It's the fossil problem all over again, perhaps, and it makes me wonder. If you're an unreleased game and you're getting to be long overdue, can you tilt the odds of becoming classic vapourware in your favour?
Can the BBC make games? Of course it can, and does. Its “mission” is to “enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain”. Its purposes include “promoting education and learning”, “stimulating creativity and cultural excellence”, and its means of output are “television, radio and online”. This country is a world leader in games-making talent. Online gaming can be creatively and culturally excellent. Games can inform, educate and entertain – and also engage, a pretty vital prerequisite for doing the other three. But right now the BBC just isn’t applying its values to games.
It’s interesting to compare Her Story to a text adventure: you do type in text, freely, in the hope of getting a pre-written response back. And like a text-adventure, a lot of what you type does not have a response. But here that system is never frustrating, because the logic of what will and won’t get a response is made clear to you, there’s a natural reason for it, and that lets it become the game.
At the end of the game's prologue of sorts, our hero, Snake (AKA Naked Snake, later Big Boss), a CIA operative who's just had the world yanked out from under him, lies battered and addled on the bank of a river as a rogue mushroom cloud blooms into the sky. We have just been put in charge of nursing him. We feel the shudder of hellfire flickering over his eyes and skin. We feel the heat of humanity's capacity for evil against itself, and we feel for our burly and brutalised young charge. We can pledge to bring him nobly through this – not because he's a hero, but because he is breakable.
My own real life penis comes in a startling array of different sizes. On some days, if the barometric pressure is right and I haven't stepped in any puddles, one might remark that it's a perfectly ordinary looking penis. It's the sort of penis you'd get if you averaged out all of the penises in the country. What I'm saying is you'd really struggle to pick my penis out of a line-up, if it had commited a crime.
Some of my craft fought The Blob bravely—I was right about a large, powerful, tough ship being able to take on many lesser ones in succession. But the Drengin had learned Logistics since we last met, and their ships attacked in squadrons of six or seven at a time. The You Are All So Boneds, themselves in smaller but stronger formations, were still able to dispatch them, but took irreparable damage in each clash. Soon one of their number was lost, and the reduced firepower meant the Drengin's largely unscathed armada shredded the rest without breaking a sweat.
This is surely one of the greatest gaming artifacts of the 1980s: a magazine advertisement for a device that would allow you to knit sweaters with your Nintendo Entertainment System. In it, Nintendo claims that video game knitting is "just one more example of the innovative thinking that keeps Nintendo on the cutting edge of video technology," noting that no other game systems—not one!—have knitting peripherals. This is indeed true. Ultimately, the Nintendo Knitting machine was so unique that it was never actually manufactured.
Music this week is Petestrumentals 2, which Edge's lovely Nathan Brown let me know had gone up on Spotify.