Hey gang! Graham's been off performing meiosis or whatever it is parents do (???), so you may have noticed an absence of Sunday Papers lately. Now, I firmly believe that free Sundays are for climbing hills, exploring forests, and being in/around water, but a dicky hip after a day round Loch Lomond means I must go easy today. Being Graham can't be too difficult. First question: how is his paper-reading chair still warm? Ick.
Emily Short writes about "waypoint narrative structures" - nonlinear conversation and narrative beyond simple branching with points and ideas connected by waypoints:
"Particular lines of dialogue are associated not with the topics themselves but with transitions between one topic and another — so an NPC might have a way of changing the subject from Royalty to God, for instance — and it’s possible to pathfind between topics depending on where viable transitions exist."
I trust you're reading Rob Fearon anyway, but I mention this post because it's in response to our Adam's bit on Dark Souls III and a hypothetical easy mode:
"We accept the need for tweaks in order for games to fit a variety of hardware. We accept often fairly major tweaks to change visuals, audio and lots of other things. Why then is it so hard to accept that we need tweaks for human ability too? And when we say folks can’t have that, what exactly are we saying about our hobby?"
A Burglar's Guide to the City is the new book from Geoff Manaugh of the excellent BLDGBLOG, taking a burglar's eye view of architecture and city planning. I've been reading it all morning, and am ever entranced by his playful fantasy riffing off fact. Also, since I guess I have to tie this to video games: Thief level designer Randy Smith and Monaco man Andy Schatz pop up. The New York Times has an excerpt:
"The built environment may inadvertently catalyze new forms of illegal activity, but this also means that the Los Angeles Police Department is constantly responding to criminal innovation with new forms of police work, often before the rest of the world even knows they might be necessary. With its campaign of ubiquitous aerial surveillance, Los Angeles is a kind of real-time R.&D. site for the world’s sprawling megacities, as they, too, try to manage the extralegal consequences of their newfound expansion."
The ace Nathalie Lawhead, who won the IGF 2015 Nuovo Award - and therefore a Steam store slot - with her weird and wonderful Tetrageddon Games, wonders if she even wants to release it on Steam, given how some users tend to respond to the mere presence of the unconventional:
"At any rate, if alt-yer indie games are not that welcome on a platform, then why would I go there? Instead of insisting that a hostile place changes, maybe it’s better to go make new spaces to exist in… I don’t know. It’s been on my mind."
Jimmy Maher goes into the decline of interactive fiction giants Infocom under Activision, and the grim conditions their final games were made in. With strife between Infocom and Activision - especially Activision president Bruce Davis - ever increasing, gallows humour reached the point of someone circulating this satirical memo with a form to dob in fellow employees:
"Of course, we can't depend on the honor system alone to pry some from their negative niches. So during this week, accompanying our 'No Negs' week, we will also have a little self-help program for those of us who can't stop the black humor. The program, known as 'Bruce Youth,' is modeled after the highly successful Hitler Youth program in Germany several years ago. Although we won't have executions or imprisonments for offenders, you will be able to turn in fellow employees who utter negative comments. Just fill out the form below."
The Guardian sent Parko to Chernobyl, talking about the nuclear disaster, our enduring fascination with it (thanks, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.!), the ongoing dangers, and a project to recreate it in virtual reality:
"It is a work of voyeurism, then, but also documentary. After all, this is a reality twice disappeared: the world of 1986 and the world of Soviet dominion. In the school, period books litter the floor, along with appallingly small gas masks, props of the cold war. Black-and-white photographs of Russia's great leaders hang, staring down at rows of empty desks. A wall in one classroom displays Lenin’s slogan: 'Study, study, study.'"
'Crunch time' at big studios is one of those games topics which becomes big every so often, looping on a cycle, with little seeming to change between each visit. The most recent return was sparked by Alex St. John, co-creator of Microsoft's DirectX and founder of WildTangent, griping about, among other things, the "wage-slave attitude" of people who want to make games without working 80-hour weeks. It's a pretty awful read. Many people including his own daughter, have picked it apart and other awful ideas. Anyway. Just catching you up on that.
It's watching rather than reading, and I mentioned this in a post this week, but at GDC I did very much enjoy Frank Cifaldi's talk on the foolishness of publishers' attitudes towards emulation and their back catalogues. You can watch it free in the GDC Vault:
"This isn't just a business concern, it's a creative one. If we can't keep our history alive, we risk forgetting our roots and losing a part of what made games great. But don't despair! If music can survive MP3s, games can survive this."
Sorry, I didn't plan ahead so this Sunday Papers selection is a bit slim. I recommended hills and water and forests instead, tbh.
Music this week is Dead Moon. I'm a sucker for songs where someone shouts out how to spell their band's name.