Sundays are for asking for feedback about the Sunday Papers. See the end of this post.
- At Zam, Jody MacGregor spoke to be Morgan Jaffit, designer on Freedom Force, about his work at Irrational and his transition to indie and the creation of Hand of Fate.
- At Kotaku UK, Keza MacDonald writes about how Dying Light memorialised a 17-year-old who died of cancer.
- This is interesting. Graphs showing the distribution of IGN review scores by platform and year. How does the ratio of 7s in 2015 compare to 1996? Go find out.
- I think there are lots of good examples on PC of free-to-play and microtransaction business models. There are bad ones, too, and many more so on mobile. Eira A. Ekre writes about the problems.
- Bad games are often more frustrating than bad films because the interactive aspect makes it harder to tolerate or enjoy their trashier aspects, but Rob Fearon makes a good point in sorta-defense of Ride to Hell: Retribution.
- AI and open world game design are two favourite subjects of mine, so it's nice to see Keith Stuart writing about both at Eurogamer.
- You liked Cogwatch, right? The six episode video series had Quintin Smith diving deep into individual mechanics in individual game to explore what made them tick. Well, good news: the series lives on at its new home on Cool Ghosts.
- You should also be watching their Subterfuge diary series. It's great.
Imagine this: you’re a young game designer in the early 2000s and your first real job in the industry is at Irrational Games’ new Australian studio, answering to the Americans but given a surprising amount of leeway. You’ve been entrusted with writing their new game’s script, which you email over to the States, directly to studio head Ken Levine – already kind of an intimidating legend for his work on System Shock 2 – then wait an entire week for a reply. When it arrives, it’s four words long and just says, “Formatted wrong. Do again.”
David’s love of video games was something that Janet never really felt like she could relate to whilst he was alive. She knew that it was a big part of her lovely, kind, well-mannered son’s life, and he and his younger brother Howard played a lot together. But in the wake of this tragedy, over the next six months, David’s family and the developers of Dying Light would forge an extraordinary connection. Janet and her younger son, Howard, found themselves welcomed into Techland’s world – and Techland were welcomed into theirs.
Because of this, it has become common for game developers to create systems that monetize the “whales”. What we don’t consider is that perhaps “whales” are such big spenders because we specifically create systems to manipulate them. When developers assume that a majority of gamers won’t spend money, but a small group will spend huge amounts, that small group becomes the focus of their business model. While we could instead try to innovate how we build microtransaction systems, and try to inspire a larger group to pay smaller sums of money, we are stuck trying to get the whales to give us all they’ve got. It’s depressingly ironic that, out of all words we could use, we settled on “whales”. The word is right there, in every design document and marketing strategy, haunting us with parallels to how we will carelessly hunt other species to near-extinction. Because that is what the “whales” become; different; alien; another species; a group we can exploit without remorse.
I waded a few hours into it and well, how can I put this politely? I’ve known plenty of people over the years who’d see this as their absolute perfect game. I used to drink with folks who I’m sure had this existed 20 odd years ago would have passed it around in the same way they passed around taped off the TV copies of Easy Rider or a tape compilation of Pink Floyd demos or something. The same folks who rolled up to every bar rock gig or (with some overlap) were the dudes playing the bar rock at a gig. It’s the most hairy old stoner biker videogame I’ve ever played and I appreciate it for that.
Michael Cook, a computational creativity researcher at Goldsmiths University has been thinking about this problem for a number of years. In 2011, he began development of ANGELINA, a computer program capable of designing its own games using assets drawn from image search engines. He thinks the future of this genre is about handing creative power to the machine itself. "The most crucial thing I think open worlds need to do is back off the brink of total scripting and hand-design," he says. "There has always been a tension between handcrafted missions and wild systems that let you invent magic or manipulate local politics. In my opinion, the systems are what bring open world games to life. Games where everything is scripted and static are only possible because the teams are so large and so efficient at making them - but we can't do this forever, and I don't think it'll lead us towards the next generation of open worlds. We need to build more systems in our games, things that players can interact with and break."
There have been approximately 395 Sunday Papers and December 2nd marks its 8th year as a constant presence on this site. (Here was the first.)
In that time it's changed very little, while games writing and the community that produces it has changed a lot. So I'm wondering: should the column do something different to what it's doing now?
I've mostly been a custodian for the format Kieron established back at the start, including the "Sundays are for" introduction and the music recommendation outro (but devoid of any failure). I mainly feature the games writing I happen to see during a week, and then (mostly) only those pieces I personally enjoy. That means there's a lot I ignore. That means there's a lot I don't see.
Should we be casting the net wider? Should be create a section where anyone can have their article featured, regardless of quality? Should we feature more videos? Should we do themed issues? Should we feature older articles as well as current articles? Is it time for a new picture of a newspaper in the header? Can I write the intros in first-person? Isn't my music taste great?
Tell me. Suggest your ideas. Or I'm basically just going to start doing things.
No music this week. Only questions.