Monday, February 1, 2016

Gaming Round-Up: February 1, 2016

Skulltula by Asashi-Kami

The biggest news in gaming this week is the release of Jonathan Blow’s much-anticipated island of mystifying puzzles, The Witness.  While most of the game's reviews have been effusively positive, some frustration is peeking through the cracks.

News: Anshar Studios Reveals First Trailer For VR Experience; Detached

News: Bungie gets new CEO, promises more Destiny

News: Fan Sairith Aramor, started a petition in hopes of convincing Nintendo of America to enlist Danny DeVito to provide the voice for the new crime-solving Pikachu. The petition has already been signed by 22,000 people.

News:  Of course, the biggest news of the week was that the game of Go, the last hold-out for games at which the most skilled humans can beat the best computer programs, has fallen at the hands of a computer.  Alphago, a program utilizing a Google AI algorithm, has beaten Fan Hui, the reigning European champion, at an even game, which mean that from here on out, whenever you win a video game, there's always going to be a small part of you wondering if your computer is just humoring you.  Business Insider, EngadgetScientific American, and Wired all carried the story.

In a video by Google’s DeepMind project, AlphaGo team member Demis Hassabis compares the computer’s win to the 1997 match between chess master Garry Kasparov and the IBM computer Deep Blue. But as Hassabis, who is a Candidate Master level chess player himself explains, while there are about twenty logical moves per turn for a chess game, in Go there are about two hundred. 

Jay Barnson used his memories of playing Go and learning AI to put the news of a Go-playing AI in perspective.

At Digitiser 2000, as Mr. Biffo takes a look back at some of the PC games that mattered to him.

At Eurogamer, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell explore the excellent examples of spatiality and movement in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time that have made the game so influential, explaining that the game is
"designed to permit the elegant solution of problems within a rigorously mapped environment, rather than in order to be exploratory and transgressive."  In a similar vein, the Game Maker's Toolkit looks back at what we can learn from the classic first person shooter Doom.

At KillScreen, Chris Priestman praises the moments in games where players are afforded opportunities to stop and "smell the polygons," specifically citing Life is Strange as an excellent example of inactivity as a feature.  "There’s a satisfaction to be derived in comparing our own motionless to the busyness of the world around us—to be the silence among the noise. This dichotomy can help us meditate on the glory of that singular moment."

Need a refresher on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess‘ story before the HD re-release launches later this year? Don’t worry, Nintendo has published a new story trailer that summarizes the initial plot points that led to Link’s grand quest.

Neil Herndon makes the case that Games could take the place of school at Forbes.

At the Ontological Geek, Oscar Strik examines the way games often use fictional settings to depoliticise the topic of racism in order to better teach their lessons.  "what both­ers me is that these sto­ries never seem to explic­itly explore con­nec­tions with real-world racism, par­tic­u­larly in sci-fi and future set­tings that are set on Earth. [...] Did humans in Mass Effect decide on set­ting aside their inter­nal dif­fer­ences when they made con­tact with intel­li­gent alien species? If so, some of them bet­ter show up soon, because I assume we’d want some of that enlight­en­ment here right now."

At PC Gamer, Tom Senior pays tribute to the comforting fun of brainless games."just because a game lacks a worthwhile story doesn’t mean it has nothing to give."

Scott Buchanan is a Super Mario 64 challenge runner who can do amazing things in the game while pressing buttons as little as possible. Here's a 25 minute long video of him collecting the Watch for Rolling Rocks in Hazy Maze Cave star while only pressing the A button one half of a time.

Video game design lecturer Jerome Bodin continues his series on Level Design with some discussion of Navigation Nodes in 3D Level Design or how to use visual cues to prevent navigating a 3D work from becoming too hard.

Worst Civilization 5 Deity Strategy is a good Civ 5 playthrough.


Brett Makedonski explains "All the crazy Beautiful Mind shit I did to beat The Witness"

Deanna van Buren of Gamasutra uses Witness as an example of why we need trained architects involved in game development.

Five Years Ago, Jonathan Blow Knew Just What The Witness Would Be

Pretty much the only game anyone's talking about right now is The Witness.  Ars Technica calls the game "A haunting, beautiful, coldly logical puzzle allegory," CBC speculates that the game is an "Early game of the year contender," Eurogamer explains "Why getting stuck in The Witness is good for you," and Time calls the game a "a Rubik’s Cube, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside a Video Game" (which feels just about right).  Darius Kazemi offers this interactive review. Vice even goes so far as to call The Witness "2016’s First Absolutely Essential Video Game."

Not all of the game's reviews are rosie, though.  Heather Alexandra of ZAM hightlight's the arrogance lurking just beneath the game's charm, while Lulu Blue just outright calls the game "f#cking stupid."  And Garrett Martin argues that The Witness is not as subtle as it thinks it is.

Simon Parkin takes the prize for the best titled article of the week with his New Yorker piece "The Prickly Genius of Jonathan Blow"

At the Verge, Andrew Webster talks to the creators of The Witness about how they made a 100-hour puzzle game.

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