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The Sunday Papers

We're back

Sundays are for getting back in the saddle. And so after an extended Christmas break, the Sunday Papers returns with a roundup of the best writing about videogames from across the week (and beyond).

Game developer and founder of the studio who made Hand of Fate, Morgan Jaffit, wrote this past week about the cost of doing business. That cost is online abuse, which Jaffit argues has become normalised. It's hard to disagree and I think a lot about how what we write here at RPS can better shape the discussion that surrounds videogames.

Yet there’s a striking difference, in 2018 at least. In the last twelve months a single topic has come up every time I’ve spoken developer-to-developer either in person or online : abuse. The difference between my Grandfather and I is that he did his work in peace. While there were surely frustrated punters, the chance of one of them calling my Grandfather lazy to his face was small. None would pull him up to call him greedy, stupid, ignorant or bad at his job.

Yet every game developer receives these messages daily.

Supreme Commander Forged Alliance is the best real-time strategy game ever made, so of course I was interested to read this Making Of about the base game. There's lots of quotes in there from the game's lead designer, Chris Taylor.

Today, Taylor is working on a brand new RTS which he hopes to talk more about in 2018. "My goal is to take the experience to a whole new level and break the genre out of the rut it's been in for what seems like an eternity," he says. Having already done that twice with Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, we should have high hopes the designer can achieve his objective. "With SupCom, we knew there were a few ambitious and silly features in there that we could have cut - but we didn't know they were like that until we implemented them. And why even bother making games if you're shy about something being useless or unnecessary in a game? You have to take chances, try things and see what works, especially if you want to push the boundaries and create something new and unique. People who do that truly love to explore the unknown, and those are the types of people that worked on Dungeon Siege and the SupCom games."

I liked US Gamer's list of indie games to watch out for in 2018. There's a few things on there that weren't previously on my radar, and a few I'd forgotten about.

Before I was officially writing about games, back when I was still just a lowly intern, one of the first news stories I remember writing was about a new teaser trailer for Knuckle Sandwich, the fanciful RPG from game developer Andrew Brophy. While some may compare it fondly to the likes of Earthbound, Knuckle Sandwich takes the cutesy pixelated RPG formula to, uh, low-poly Pokemon battles against Garfield-type critters, exploring the woes of living in a new city, and it's somehow laced with even more eccentricities. With a guaranteed release window of this year, I suspect Knuckle Sandwich will be the game to take players by surprise.

I enjoyed this profile of MDickie, the independent developer best known for clunky, bizarre work like The You Testament, who has now hit it big as a mobile game developer.

Dickie said he'd been working all day, every day on games and it no longer appealed financially, creatively, or personally. So at the depths of his despair, frustrated by the lack of critical acclamation for his games, Dickie stepped away from the hobby that he wanted to turn into a career. He started developing educational apps alongside being a teacher, a move that coincided with a big drive in the UK education system to integrate technology such as interactive whiteboards and iPads into the classroom. Nine years of work had come to an end—and he never planned to return to game development.

Final Fantasy 12's remaster is coming to PC. That news prompted someone in the RPS Slack to dig up this post by Robert Yang from last year which i) celebrates the efficient use of texture memory in the original PS2 release and ii) criticises the remaster for what it does to the environment textures.

As efficient as it is, there are a few drawbacks to this technique. Symmetrical UV mirroring means you want to avoid noisy high frequency details, and make sure your textures are relatively clean or homogeneous -- it would look weird if you had symmetrical scars on your face, or symmetrical patterns of dirt on both of your arms, etc. I think this symmetry explains why the Final Fantasy 12 skin tones are so boring and flat, and why Vaan's abs looked so weird -- it has to look flat in order to look consistent.

Also at Eurogamer, Chris Bratt's Here's A Thing series tells the story of the pitch that convinced Shigeru Miyamoto to back Mario vs. Rabbids. There's a text version of the story for those of you who hate moving images and noises.

Davide Soliani isn't just your typical Nintendo fan. 15 years ago, upon finding out that legendary Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto - the man that had made him want to create video games in the first place - was going to be visiting Italy to promote a new Zelda game, he decided he had to meet him in person.

I haven't found the time yet to play Battle Chef Brigade, and so I have contented myself by reading lots about it. This, in which developer Tom Eastman talks about the game's design, is good.

There was a multitude of prototypes. Another one was all about taste and texture profiles, and so we'd work through like, this ingredient has this percentage savory, this percentage sour, this percentage salty, and the judge wants a percentage set and a texture set, like from mushy to crunchy, like three more of those. And each ingredient would that coming in, if you fried, baked or boiled it, all those values would change in ways unique to that ingredient, but that was getting little too "chemistry set." (laughs)

Tim Sweeney created lots of features for the Unreal engine because he thought, based on screenshots he'd seen, that other engines already had those capabilities.

Carmack had written this really advanced editor on the NeXT. I'd read all about it and I had seen screenshots of it, but I never actually used it. At the time, I thought to myself "Holy shit, Carmack wrote a real-time BSP editor!" What I didn't realize was that it wasn't actually real-time, there was this re-build process and all this other offline stuff. I didn't know that, and so I thought I had to create a completely real-time thing, and so I did. [laughs]

A handsome chap wrote about the stories revealed by Plunkbat's new replay mode over at Eurogamer. What?

Leather coat, hockey mask, need the rest - m4w (Erangel)

You, kitted out in black, running towards your buggy near the southern coast. Me, wearing a T-shirt, shooting hopelessly in your direction from 400 yards away. Our eyes met across the grassy field, but then you were gone. What I'd do for another chance...

--Man it turns out you murdered three minutes later

This is the best article about a shade of red I've ever read.

Falu red was made from the byproducts of the mining process; the pits weren’t dug for the sake of paint. The copper mined in Falun would be used to fund Sweden’s military advances throughout the 17th, and 18th centuries, including the Great Northern War. (The country even tried to switch over to copper currency for a time, a failed experiment that ended with a public beheading that “greatly pleased the Swedish people.”) Many would die in the Falun mines, suffocated, crushed, or burnt alive. Their bodies would be found later, preserved by the same hard mineral matter that they were seeking to excavate, dark red mummies covered in sulfate crystals, their muscles seemingly turned to stone. The most famous example was a man named Fet-Mats who was discovered in 1719, over 40 years after he drowned in a poorly placed tunnel. His former fiancée identified the body. For decades, Fet-Mats was displayed in a glass case in the Stora Kopparbergs Church like some plebian version of Sleeping Beauty. The poor guy reached his final resting place in 1930, nearly 300 years after his death, but not before inspiring a folk ballad, a short story, and a Wagner libretto.)

Music this week is... Have I linked this before? It's Kuj Yato by Clap! Clap! Also available with a video on YouTube.

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