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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for... oh, I dunno. Fishing (the internet for quality writing about video games).

On Eurogamer, Sara Elsam wrote about how senior Labour Party members have been playing war games to prepare them for office. John McDonnell apparently talked about these training scenarios last year at the Labour Party conference, but it completely passed me by. I'm gonna go ahead and quote the first paragraph, because if any intro has succeeded in making me want to keep reading an article, it's this one.

"Play The Game of War," says the monotone voice, as footage of a silver board topped with jagged counters fades into view, "and you will learn how to transform the enclosed lands of spectacular capitalism into the participatory playgrounds of cybernetic communism."

Waypoint's Patrick Klepek spoke to devs about how Google's recent attempt at fixing autoplay videos has broken countless games. I can't agree with Bennet Foddy that it means we're 'losing our cultural heritage' considering that all the affected games should still (unless I'm missing something) work in other browsers - but that doesn't mean Google didn't screw up.

It’s hard to argue Google’s wrong for trying to eliminate autoplaying videos, but in failing adequately research how audio/visual artists deploy their work on the web, they’ve hurt bystanders. Based on the way Google positioned their announcement, it’s possible they may not have even considered what impact this might have on games and other digital artists.

Also on Waypoint, Kevin Snow wrote about how Frostpunk treats people with disabilities as complex humans rather than gimmicks. It's a great, valid counterpoint to what many people (myself included) have been saying about how the game doesn't feel like it does enough to make you relate to your citizens. It's also great to see someone called Snow writing about a game called Frostpunk, which I probably enjoy more than is reasonable.

There's other ways Frostpunk would have let me build New London, other visions. In another session, the gravely ill rested in chilly carehouses while great steam automatons mined coal for their furnaces. No dangerous surgeries, no prostheses. Even in a world so cold a person can freeze to death while standing next to an enormous generator, Frostpunk still leaves support structures for people with disabilities on the table.

Tommy Thompson wrote an impressively detailed account of the history of Starcraft AI research. I'll confess that so far I've only managed to skim this, but I'm planning on going back and trying to absorb the technical details later. Not that you really need to: I still like the bits that read like a much nerdier, low octane and abstract version of Robot Wars.

Meanwhile the Aiur bot — another Protoss player that frequently scored in the top three — used similar strategies to SkyNet. This included a Photon Cannon rush strategy (referred to as ‘Cheese’) as well as heavy use of a Zealot and Dragoon army for mid-game. Aiur is once again a one man team, developed by Florian Richoux: then a graduate student of the Université de Nantes and at the time of this article an associate professor at the institution as part of the Laboratoire des Sciences du Numérique de Nantes. Aiur is an acronym for Artificial Intelligence Using Randomness, with the bot reliant on the idea of having a mood system that dictates gameplay decisions.

Luke Winkie interviewed Spy Party dev Chris Hecker for PC Gamer. Turns out the secret to being able to work on the same game for 9 years is to make loads of money making Spore, then borrow some more from your mum.

Once he left the company, Hecker tells me he had a couple hundred thousand dollars in his savings account, as well as a low-mortgage house in the Bay Area that he describes as the "perfect indie situation." It was more than enough to subsist on through SpyParty's development, though Hecker tells me at the tail end, he did borrow some money from his mother to push through the final thresholds.

Also for PC Gamer, Tom Senior attempted to make the world kneel before his elephants in Dominions 5. The world of Dominions 5 contains something called 'the Vale of Infinite Horrors', so it doesn't go entirely to plan.

Turn one. I survey my kingdom, which is just a fortress surrounded by a collection of unaffiliated warriors waiting to be brutally kill–I mean, er, ushered into the peaceful kingdom of Arcoscephale. I check my recruitment menu and, to no one in particular, say, “It’s time to build some fuckin’ elephants!” My holy decree is realised in only a few turns, and soon mighty Gondalf sallies forth with a dozen elephants to have kind words with the neighbouring independents.

Sophia Foster-Dimino wrote (and drew) about the joys of playing singleplayer games in co-op.

Chris Bratt has announced he's leaving Eurogamer, so here's one of my favourite things of his. It involves him giving up coffee and taking a nootropic called GodMode. I don't believe that it had any effect on his gaming skills, but the evidence suggests it can make you a fantastic investigate journalist.

"Why don't crabs give to charity? Because they're SHELLFISH, BOY"]

Music this week is Gravel Rag by Holy Moly and the Crackers, who are very good at naming things.

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