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The Sunday Papers

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A plain white mug of black tea or coffee, next to a broadsheet paper on a table, in black and white. It's the header for Sunday Papers!
Image credit: RPS

Sundays are for buying a Werther's Original from your local petrol station. Before you treat yourself, let's read this week's best writing about games (and game related things).

Over on Arstechnica, Kyle Orland wrote about Wordle, IP law, and what happens when a popular game gets cloned. The idea of Wordle isn't very legally protectable, which means it's an inevitability the clones will keep coming. The law shrugs in this case.

In other words, it's exceedingly hard to copyright an abstract game mechanic like "guessing five-letter words and giving hints based on correct letters." A game developer can file for a patent on an original gaming idea, a legal process that has been used to strangle video game clones in the past. But getting a patent is a long and arduous process that can fall apart if there's "prior art" predating the idea (or if the mechanic could be considered legally "obvious").

Over on Load-bearing Tomato, Chris 'chhopsky' Pollock answered why items-as-NFTs doesn't enable transfer of assets between games. A game developer takes us through why transferring a skin or an item between two different games is incredibly difficult, essentially. This article is structured really nicely and relatively easy to follow as someone who knows nothing about game dev.

Game engines can’t even agree on which way is up, let alone a myriad of other things. You cannot simply ‘export’ and ‘import’, let alone have that happen automatically without knowing the intricate details of how the asset was created, and what specific tasks need to be done to make it work in your game. These assets aren’t just a model and textures - they all contain code of some sort that fundamentally ties them to the game they were created in. Even moving items or cosmetics between two games made in Unreal Engine is an extremely manual process, because they all depend on things in the codebase that don’t exist in other games.

For The Guardian, Simon Parkin wrote about the trouble with Roblox, the video game empire built on child labour. No doubt inspired by People Make Games' initial investigation into Roblox and their follow-up deep dive.

For many of its young users, Roblox is their first experience of the many challenges of managing a team on any creative project, where egos jostle and commitment is tested. With so many projects made by young teams with no previous experience of how to collaborate, little supervision, and often unrealistic expectations, stories of projects gone bad are as prevalent as stories of miraculous success. Roblox offers an accelerator programme – a 12-week course run three times a year – to educate its users. But these tools are focused on how to make better games, not on the interpersonal challenges required to manage a successful creative team. So, while the early success experienced by Anna in Roblox is unusual, stories of exploitation on the platform are rife.

For Gamesradar, Hirun Cryer spoke to four veteran combat designers on how they make a memorable battle system. Some great insight into the "tricks" they use to keep combat engaging and their different approaches to tutorialising the hacking and slashing.

For Taura though, it's all about creating a "comfortable" experience that players can "pour their hearts into." The gameplay veteran points to tiny tricks interlocking with one another, and in a way that the player may even be able to recognise and anticipate them. It might be something as simple as the game's background music transitioning automatically to a combat track once the punches start flying, or a combat system that “lets you catch the enemy even without using a lock on system.” Additionally, Taura buys into Glover's method of putting a hard limit on the amount of enemy attacks pelting the player, and Itsuno's beliefs of restricting off-screen attacks from enemies the player can't see.

Finally, have a browse of the mobile phone museum and reminisce with me. I remember fawning over one classmate's Sony Ericsson that had a little joystick.

Music this week is Lights Out, Words Gone by Bombay Bicycle Club. Here's the YouTube link and Spotify link. A gentle one.

That's me folks, until next time!

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