Sundays are for celebrating birthdays, as a method for recovering from celebrating weddings. That leaves just enough time left for rounding up the week's best writing about videogames.
- Videogamer.com's Dropsy review ends with what seems like a long digression, but the stories of circus life are so interesting that it forms the better half of the article.
- Speaking of diversions, Paul Kilduff-Taylor, of Frozen Synapse developer Mode 7, writes a manifesto of sorts. The New Games Criticism manifesto. It's generous and accepting of multiple approaches to writing, but I particularly liked the bit about scores. 10/10 for the bit about scores.
- Which led me to re-watch this. Still pretty much accurate.
- While writing something else about The Gamechangers, the BBC's documentary about Grand Theft Auto, I found this article on the making of Lemmings.
- This short post about how one of Capy's artists makes pixel art animations is lovely and interesting. Like you.
- What happens when game designers and poets collaborate? Great things, says Thomas McMullan in this article.
- Friendly friend and Gunpoint creator Tom Francis has been writing a series of posts about Metal Gear Solid V, talking about it's strengths and surprises, including the way it offers you room for failure and let's you play as someone else.
- Tim Wicksteed's Big Pharma has been selling well, and over at Gamasutra he's rounded up some of the sales data to analyse what can be learning from it.
- At the Guardian, an anonymous developer writes about diversity in the games industry, not only in terms of race and gender, but in terms of the limited space for creativity and career progression.
- PC Gamer launched PC Gamer Pro, a subsite dedicated to esports. It's being led by my fellow podcast proprietor and former PC Gamer deputy editor Chris Thursten. Here's his introduction to it.
Where do I begin? I was born in Australia, my mum and biological dad touring with Chipperfield's Circus. He was a lion tamer – resulting in many instant wins when bragging about dads in the school playground. He also worked with tigers, snakes, crocodiles, camels, horses, elephants, zebras and more. It was, I'm told, a crazy life – one that, understandably resulted in many horrific injuries for people who got a little too confident around the animals. There's no real point in adding that final detail, seeing as Dropsy is about kindness and not gruesome acts of violence, but I wouldn't want to be caught out when someone discovers a secret quest or something.
However, a New Games Critic acting in the capacity of a journalist understands the review score as an additional opportunity to provide inflection and texture. They see it as a convenient symbol which differentiates criticism and journalism; it is viewed as neat and pleasant punctuation to their considered opinion. They have fun with it.
But it was never a game about killing lemmings. ‘You always had to save them,’ says Dailly, ‘And the nuke was always a way to abort the level. It’s one of the few original games I’ve worked on where the core idea never changed much.’ This hints at one of the quieter revolutions involved in the development of Lemmings. At the time, a developer would typically code their game, then export it to an editor to check it worked. But for Lemmings DMA created an integrated tool for designing the levels, based on the interface of the Amiga’s Deluxe Paint program, which allowed anything built or changed to be tested immediately. This made the construction of Lemmings’ levels a much faster, more iterative process.
My Mother’s House is a poem. It’s also a Minecraft map. The piece is a collaboration between poet Victoria Bennett and her partner, digital artist Adam Clarke, funded by a bursary from The Writing Platform. Load it up and you’ll find a labyrinth built up of spaces separated by doors. As you move between areas, a disembodied voice reads a poem to you one stanza at a time. The original Italian meaning of stanza is “room”, or “stopping place”, and Bennett and Clarke told me they used this as a way to structure their poem/game.
If you have keen eyesight, you might have noticed that the person in my screenshots is not straggly-bearded horned male Venom Boss Big Punished Ahab Snake. She’s Amber Fox, a low level support officer I think I extracted on an early mission [update: Andy tells me you get her by importing your Ground Zeroes save], along with another Fox with the same tattoo who might be her brother. She’s not a story character, just one of hundreds of recruits I have milling around my base.
I have full control of the schedule of the next game. Now I’m not saying for one second that having a publisher onboard for Big Pharma wasn’t incredibly useful and I learnt a lot from the process. However it did add some additional stress and complications. I’m looking forward to having the ability to say: “OK, we need to invest more time into this part of the game. Yes it will cost us another £7,000 of development time but I think it’s worth the investment” and know that it’s just my money I’m risking, not somebody else’s. In case it wasn’t clear from what I just said, I’m saying that I would much rather risk my own money than somebody else’s. Crazy? Perhaps…
The thing is, I don’t really care if you put a female avatar into Assassins Creed. You can put as many women as you like into Fifa, or make the entire cast of Gears of War tough action chicks – I still won’t play those games. I don’t care about climbing a tower to reveal more of the kill-map, I don’t care about shooting people, I don’t care about winning the World Cup. You can’t put a pink bow on a tank and assume different audiences are going flock to it because you gave them some token aesthetic validation. Adding representational diversity to those kinds of games is important, but how often do we consider diversity of genre; diversity of experience?
If you already follow competitive gaming, we’re here to offer you exciting, informative and funny articles about the games you care about. We don’t aspire to replace Reddit, LoL Esports, TeamLiquid or TempoStorm in your daily browsing habit: the esports community has always done an incredible job of providing itself with the material it needs. Instead, we see ourselves as a lighter alternative. We’re going to use our access, our experience in magazine journalism and our sense of humour to entertain you and make you excited to get home and play. We’re here to keep the combo going.
Music this week is this bouncy bit of synth-pop.