Sundays are for lying face down on the ground and letting the week wash away. But there's always words about videogames, too.
- I love ultra-detailed breakdowns of the technical ways games function, and so this study of the graphics of Grand Theft Auto V is right up my street.
- At Gamasutra, Katherine Cross talks about how interactive fictions are really just games, and how they're often bold and inventive games at that. Interesting for the games it analyses. I hadn't heard of Lifeline.
- I enjoyed this article, though it is from 2012, about Thonnir, the worst companion in Skyrim.
- Our own Joe Donnelly popped up on Vice this past week to write an ode to the Dark Souls Bonfire, thus fulfilling the permitted quota of Dark Souls articles that can be written.
- GameCity was last week and I hear mixed things, but Keith Stuart and Jordan Erica Webber rounded up the festival's best moments over at the Guardian.
- At Zam, which is producing good work, Carli Velocci writes about how to address the lost history of girls' games.
- Over at Molle Industria, a roundup of videogames made to promote music. I have played some of these and recommend watching the Keyboard Drumset Fucking Werewolf video by Cactus.
- Steam Spy continues to be a valuable resource for people who like numbers. The site's creator continues to round up those numbers along particular themes, most recently looking at early access games. I think it's difficult to draw conclusions from the facts and figures here, but it's still interesting.
- Warren Spector spoke at PAX Australia about the making of Deus Ex, while someone played through it on a big screen. There's some interesting stuff in the conversation.
- Grantland shut down last week and I didn't realise when writing last week's Sunday Papers, which gave me the opportunity to eulogise it a little in its own post. I picked out some of its good game articles and people in the comments picked out some more. Go read.
How was the SSS applied to Michael only? First only his silhouette is extracted. This is possible thanks to the stencil buffer generated before: all of Michael’s pixels have a value of 0x89. So we can get Michael’s pixels, great, but we want to apply the SSS only to the skin, not to the clothes.
Actually, when all the G-Buffers were combined, in addition to the shading data stored in the RGB, some data was being written to the alpha channel too. More precisely, the irradiance map and the specular map alpha channels were used to create a binary mask: the pixels belonging to Michael’s skins and to some plants are set to 1 in the alpha channel. Other pixels like the clothes have an alpha of 0. So the SSS can be applied by providing as input simply the combined G-Buffer target and the depth-stencil buffer.
The first game sees you contacted by an astronaut stranded on a distant planet, and only you can use the eponymous lifeline to bring him home, the second sees you contacted by a woman in a fantasy universe on a quest to avenge her family. Each protagonist depends on you, involves you in their lives via the strange intimacy of their chance contact with you and even texts you with updates and requests for advice and aid.
So, being a minor NPC himself, Thonnir had a few canned phrases he’d repeat at random intervals. You know what his favorite topic for idle chitchat was? His dead wife. Specifically, how hard it was going to be to raise his son without her. What a fun guy! We’d be sneaking through a fortress of bandits together, and I’d be watching for enemies or traps when he’d blurt out, “MY WIFE IS DEAD.”
To make matters worse, I killed his wife...
And then, panic. With your shield steadfastly raised, defending your face, your body, your life, your sanity, you head for the exit. You pause at the archway of the door. You look back. You step forward. The elevator descends; you shuffle in anticipation. You spin the camera 360 degrees, checking that there are no unwelcome surprises behind you. You glance again at your souls, make sure they're still there. Yup, 51,661. That's a lot of souls. You emerge from the lift into another hallway. You look right. It's too dark – there could be monsters that way. Can't be too safe. A long corridor sprawls out to the left – you can just about see a glowing white collectable at the opposite end. There must be a bonfire down that way. You go. There isn't a bonfire down that way.
Perhaps the project developed in the shortest amount of time was an audio game from William Pugh and Dominik Johann of Crows Crows Crows, which was designed and recorded in a hotel room during the event. The end result is a surprisingly substantial cross between an audio choose-your-own adventure and a physical game, Snraf 2: Sports has the player fast-forward the audio file to make choices, rewarded with instructions from Pugh and Johann to act out various sport-related activities. Not officially on show at GameCity but developed while the pair attended, this silly little diversion demonstrates the kind of creativity that springs whenever game designers gather.
Purple Moon was a software company that developed titles during the “girls’ games movement” in the late 90s, including Rockett’s World, a series of coming-of-age games based around a high school-aged girl named Rockett, and the Secret Paths series, which were more introspective and abstract. Both series had the distinctive purple packaging and came with small, plastic trinkets, such as gemstones. I remembered playing these games the moment a slide appeared during the panel’s presentation, showing the red-headed, freckled face of Rockett Movado. And I freaked out, hearing the music in my head and remembering choosing how Rockett would react to certain situations.
The fact that I didn’t remember these games until I was forced to remember them is a common reaction, according to Rachel Simone Weil, founder of FEMICOM Museum, which seeks to preserve girls games and push them into the public consciousness. While Purple Moon titles, Barbie games, and Nancy Drew adventures were popular on PC, there is still a lack of awareness about not only their histories, but their basic data: their box art, their copyright dates, for instance.
When your game enters EA, gamers seem to treat it in the same way as non-EA games. At least I found no statistically significant difference in sales or playtime.
But when your game exits EA, it is way more likely to sell well compared to an average game. If it survives long enough to actually get released.
Music this week is VHS Head, who make music in part by cutting up and remixing old VHS tapes. Try this.