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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for clearing the ice off your car's windscreen with lukewarm water. Before you pour, let's read this week's best writing about games (and game related things).

Over on The Verge, James Vincent wrote about ChatGPT proving that AI is finally mainstream - and things are only going to get weirder. Vincent writes about "capability overhang" which roughly translates to, "We're just starting to learn about the capabilities of AI and there's probably going to be some perilous discoveries next years thanks to this".

Capability overhang is a technical term, but it also perfectly describes what’s happening right now as AI enters the public domain. For years, researchers have been on a tear, pumping out new models faster than they can be commercialized. But in 2022, a glut of new apps and programs have suddenly made these skills available to a general audience, and in 2023, as we continue scaling this new territory, things will start changing — fast.

For Game Informer, Blake Hester chats with Neon White's creative director Ben Esposito about how levels in the game are made. Hester returns this week with another great read. This time we dive into the creation of Smackdown and follow its three-year journey from graybox to fully-fledged level.

He pulls up the earliest version, running in the game engine Unity. It’s a graybox, featuring the level geometry but without any art (see picture). While a few core ideas are the same as the shipped version – some enemy placements and level layout – there is one immediate flaw: ambiguity. It’s not always clear what you need to do.

On Games Industry.biz, James Batchelor spoke to Cole Jeffries about making a true detective game in Shadows Of Doubt. Cool insights on giving players agency in a procedurally generated murder mystery game. Definitely one to watch.

A few limits have been put in place – there are no cheese hoarders, for example – but by and large the NPCs are able to do what they please. They go to work, they go out for a drink, they come home and sleep at night. And their attributes and characteristics can play into the central mystery. For example, each citizen has a shoe size. Find size eight footprints at a murder scene, and you automatically have a pool of suspects.

On Eurogamer, Robert Purchese argues that it's a mistake that games don't use mistakes more. Purchese contemplates games allowing you to make mistakes and the powerful reactions this can elicit.

What happens when you take your XCOM squad out, or a squad in another permadeath world, and one of them passes away? It's not the desired outcome; you'd keep them all alive, particularly your favourites, if you could. But if you let them die, something far more interesting happens: you, in a manner of speaking, mourn them. You think about that blasted mission where something went wrong and they died, and the mistake you made and what you could have done differently. You relive that little moment of dread you felt when you realised what was going on. And all of this thinking: it pulls you in closer, and it becomes a story woven into your ongoing experience of the game. Maybe you tell people about it. Maybe you associate the game with the memory forever more.

Music this week is False Prophets by J. Cole, a six-year old track which seems more relevant than ever. Here's the Spotify link and YouTube link. Cole is unrivalled when it comes to weaving a story in a clear, often relatable way. One of the greats.

That's it for now, catch you next week folks!

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Ed Thorn avatar

Ed Thorn

Senior Staff Writer

When Ed's not cracking thugs with bicycles in Yakuza, he's likely swinging a badminton racket in real life. Any genre goes, but he's very into shooters and likes a weighty gun, particularly if they have a chainsaw attached to them. Adores orange and mango squash, unsure about olives.

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