Sid Meier is famous for creating the video game Civilization. He’s also known for having his name on the box. Meier released Civilization thirty years ago this month, after developing it with Bruce Shelley, a veteran board-game designer. The pair were inspired by the illustrated history books you might find on a middle-school library shelf, and by titles like Seven Cities of Gold (1984), a video game of Spanish conquest created by the designer Danielle Berry. In Civilization, you start with a covered wagon on a map that is largely obscured. You found a city. You learn metalwork, horse riding, feudalism, democracy, and diplomatic relations. Eventually, the rest of the world is revealed—a patchwork of nations. You can dominate your neighbors or strive to outshine them. History rolls on.
Long before Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego or The Oregon Trail, there was The Sumerian Game.
Designed in 1964 for classrooms, it was as innovative as it is forgotten.
I discovered this long lost obscurity while doing research for a years-long project about the early history of storytelling in video games (which you can support on Patreon if the topic interests you). To my surprise, I’d reached the end of my journey to find the beginning, because this is where storytelling in video games starts.
The Sumerian Game was the first narrative video game. And the first video game writer was a woman named Mabel Addis.
Over the decades, gaming arcades in Japan have faced a series of challenges. Typically, they’ve been in the realm of technology — namely high-tech video game consoles that first promised arcade machine-level graphics and then, eventually, surpassed them. Now, Japanese arcades are facing a new menace, one that the entire world has been combating: COVID-19.
Since many of us are working from home in these trying times, it seems safe to assume that more people than ever are indulging in playing the occasional computer game. A city builder is a specific kind of computer game in which you design a city, extract resources, set up production chains and ensure that your settlement grows. City builders are very similar to strategy games as they reward patience and strategy. In this article, I will take a look at one sub-genre of the city builder, the medieval city builder, and explain how this gaming genre relates to our knowledge of medieval settlement planning.
The underground labs of the original Half-Life were set somewhere among New Mexico’s towering desert canyons. It wasn’t your prototypical blockbuster locale, but it was still Hollywood-esque, reminiscent of Cold War-era sci-fi films like Them!, where US Army men battled against giant irradiated ants below a blistering American sun. The setting of Half-Life’s sequel, on the other hand, felt markedly different: colder, darker, and altogether more otherworldly.
If you’d asked me to make a prediction for gaming in 2021, I wouldn’t in a thousand guesses have dropped chips on this one. Roberta and Ken Williams, founders of adventure gaming developer Sierra Entertainment, have announced their plans to develop and release a brand new game in 2021, which will be the duo’s first release in over two decades.
The Williams’ new game, tentatively titled The Secret, is expected to feature the classic Sierra style that the husband and wife team pioneered with a huge catalogue of adventure titles throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Franchises such as Gabriel Knight, Phantasmagoria, King’s Quest, Police Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry offered formative video game fans hours of point ‘n’ click action. And while not all of Sierra’s titles were hits, critically or financially, the studio garnered a reputation for its experimental, unique, and home-grown nature when it came to writing, game design and gameplay mechanics.
Imagine an MMORPG that rolled every game genre into one incredible universe—a game for the ages that lets you craft, build, farm, fight, play, tame creatures, and do whatever you want. The wildly ambitious promise of the ultimate mixed-genre MMO has been made before, but now we have a new contender that claims to be the “last game you’ll ever play“—DreamWorld, an “infinite open world creative MMO” that will, at some point, host millions of players in a single immersive world.
You don’t have to be a game developer to know that this isn’t a game you can make today, even with a massive budget. And when you learn that DreamWorld’s creators, Garrison Bellack and Zachary Kaplan, have never made a commercial game, it looks like pure fantasy. Yet this fantasy raised almost $65,000 on Kickstarter in March and has the backing of startup investor Y Combinator. As I looked further into this impossibly ambitious project, I found MMO streamers calling DreamWorld and its May 21st alpha release a “fiasco” and a “scam,” and that was just the beginning. The allegations against DreamWorld include:
Teens recruited as mods and promised jobs
Stolen or improperly credited assets
Nepotism at Y Combinator
An easily hackable server with poor security
A impossible-to-achieve development timeline (and an allegedly fake diamond ring)
Video game and hardware studio Valve has been secretly building a Switch-like portable PC designed to run a large number of games on the Steam PC platform via Linux—and it could launch, supply chain willing, by year’s end.
Multiple sources familiar with the matter have confirmed that the hardware has been in development for some time, and this week, Valve itself pointed to the device by slipping new hardware-related code into the latest version of Steam, the company’s popular PC gaming storefront and ecosystem.
The news came as a shock, but it also wasn’t exactly a surprise.
One month ago, Jeff Kaplan announced that he would be leaving Blizzard. His departure ended a 19 year career at Blizzard in which he helped develop two of the most important games ever made — World of Warcraft and Overwatch. A beloved figure at Blizzard, Kaplan’s departure sparked an outpouring of emotion from fans and developers alike.
“He was sincere when he bid the team farewell and let them know how proud he was of everything that we were all able to accomplish together and how confident he was in what a lot of us consider to be one of the greatest development teams in the industry,” said Aaron Keller – who succeeded Kaplan as Overwatch 2 director — in an interview with IGN. “It was an emotional moment to hear that from someone who you knew meant it and believed it.”
But underneath the emotion of Kaplan’s departure was a more troubling narrative that had been brewing since at least 2018. If you’ve been following Blizzard for any amount of time, it’s hard not to notice the outflow of talent from every part of the business. While Blizzard says its voluntary turnover is significantly under industry average and that departures among developers who have been with the company for longer than 10 years are in fact decreasing, several high-profile departures have contributed to the sense among fans, media, and many within the company that Blizzard is experiencing an exodus.
In June 2012, during development on “Grand Theft Auto V,” a department lead told over 50 Rockstar North employees to come into work the following day, despite their contracts having expired. These workers had grown accustomed to a certain rhythm: Sign a contract for a three- to six-month interval, then get the contract extended the day before it lapsed. It wasn’t comfortable — the arrangement made it hard to sign a lease, for example — but it wasn’t unusual.
The next day, a department lead entered the offices where people were anxiously trying to work. Tapping individuals on the shoulder one by one, the lead directed them toward HR, where they were eventually told their contracts would not be renewed. In total, roughly 30 contractors were released, many of whom were new to the industry, multiple people present on the day told The Post. The silver lining, the unrenewed contractors thought, was the credit they would eventually receive for their time spent working on the game. The hotly anticipated fifth entry in the popular Grand Theft Auto franchise went on to sell more than 64 million copies worldwide. It became the most profitable entertainment product of all time.
But when “Grand Theft Auto V” launched, those workers were shocked to discover they were missing from the game’s credits.
Real-Time Strategy. Once a genre that everyone played, it now is relegated to a small little niche that only few want to interact with anymore. How did RTS rise, when did it fall and is there hope left for the genre? Those are just some of the questions our new series will answer.
To the management of J2 Global and Ziff Davis, and the corporate leadership of IGN:
We, the undersigned employees of IGN, are appalled by the recent management decision to subvert our editorial autonomy and remove our post directing aid to the Palestinian civilians currently suffering a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.
The developers of Holodexxx are at a loss. After spending months attempting to get their VR sex game onto Steam, they’ve hit a wall that no amount of self-censorship or mechanical refinement has been able to drill through: Valve’s nebulous definition of “pornography.”
Holodexxx is a game in which simulated versions of real adult performers interact with the player in virtual reality, with AI guiding elements of the performance. Its creators bill it as an ethical, sex-positive game being made in conjunction with and featuring real sex workers. Steam, at this point, carries a plethora of games that include adult content—some of which venture into much dicier thematic territory than Holodexxx. But that didn’t stop Valve from chasing Holodexxx off its holodeck.
In a recent lengthy blog, the game’s developers outlined everything they’ve tried over the course of multiple months. To begin, they submitted a “PG-13 experience” to Steam starring a clothed version of adult film actress Riley Reid, along with a censored video of live adult stars. Valve, say Holodexxx’s developers, blocked the submission “with a boiler-plate explanation that video pornography was not allowed on Steam.” So then the developers spent additional time creating a new demo without video of adult stars, in which the player could instead look at a model of adult film actress Marley Brinx in a virtual environment. Again, Valve blocked it on the basis that it was “pornography.”
A gaming insider says an internal company document proves video game giant Electronic Arts is trying to drive players into a type of game play that encourages them to spend more money and which has come under fire for possible links to gambling.
The leaked 54-page document comes from the company’s sports division in Burnaby, B.C., where a team works on EA’s hugely profitable FIFA soccer games. It appears to be a presentation, featuring numerous slides with bullet points, about the release of FIFA 21 and was shared internally.
It discusses a mode of play that lets players buy “loot boxes” within the game to improve play or increase their chances of winning, such as by adding a better player to their team.
It says the mode that allows loot box purchases, called FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT), is the “cornerstone” of the game.
“We are doing everything we can to drive players there,” a bullet point close to the top of the document says.
TheThe world of Cozy Grove looks like the inside of a sketchbook. Its detailed illustrations, rich with color and varied linework, slowly fade from full color to muted, almost unfinished scenes. These are there for a purpose; the player is to bring color and life back to the island. But it’s also a technique designed to convey a sense of warmth and humanity — that this is a world touched by life.
Developer Spry Fox describes the game as “hand-drawn,” and that feel has always been a priority for the team. It’s a descriptor that plenty of games have taken on over the years; notable hand-drawn games include the likes of Cuphead and Spiritfarer, neither of which quite resemble Cozy Grove’s hand-drawn style. After all, in breaking down the term “hand-drawn” to its simplest terms, we get something that’s drawn by hand — as obvious as that sounds. Most games have an element of drawing, with artists that create textures, illustrate backgrounds, and model characters. A lot of games would qualify as hand-drawn, but only some choose to adhere to that label. What does it mean for a game to be hand-drawn? As it turns out, that’s different for most developers.
Zot the Avenger is in a world of his own. Onscreen, the long-haired 12-year-old carries himself like a cheeky, slightly awkward teen, complete with backwards baseball cap and baggy t-shirt. Zot—with a steady, practiced cadence and carefully cultivated air of confidence—is here to talk to you about fighting games on his program Video Games and More. The games are projected on a screen behind him, including the telltale blur of a camera being pointed at a CRT TV. As he fires up Street Fighter II as Balrog, he takes his first live call on a chunky beige corded phone.
Last August, Microsoft released the latest version of its Flight Simulator, extending the run of that franchise to 38 years and making it the longest-running product line in Microsoft’s history. Published by the technology giant’s Xbox Game Studios, the new Flight Simulator treats gamers to vastly greater detail and texture in both environment and aircraft, far better lighting, and much more realistic flight characteristics than in previous versions. The precise renderings of all 20 airplanes (which include the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Cessna 172, and Beechcraft B350) and the particulars of individual airports are stunning.
In the video game Howling Dogs, released in 2012, players wake up in a prison with few options: a shower, a nutrient dispenser, a garbage chute, and a recreation room with a virtual reality headset. For the first few clicks, all you can do is navigate the prison: getting your nutrient bar, cleaning up, examining a photograph by your bed. Then you put on the headset, and you’re thrown into a world of strange, vivid imagery. You live out a strange snapshot life before being thrown back to the same tiny room. You click through the same motions again and again, each time visiting a different world, as sparklingly strange as the prison is dull.