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Worth Reading: 03/28/2014

Some musings on the responsibilities of a reporter, and your usual barrage of links, games, and more.

I take my job seriously. I don't always get it right, but do my best to acknowledge when I get it wrong.

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I don't bring this up to pat myself on the back, but to make a point. You've probably heard of the game Threes, an excellent and endlessly infuriating puzzle game for iOS and Android in which players slide numbered tiles on top of each other to form bigger numbers. That's a gross oversimplication of Threes but anyway.

It's possible you don't know Threes, and are, instead, familiar with 2048 or 1024. These are derivatives of Threes, and neither could exist without Threes having been created in the first place. Threes might seem simple and clear, but such a design only comes after a lengthy development process that seems clear in hindsight. A lengthy look at how the game came to be is featured below.

But that's not what irked me this morning.

Max Temkin went on a tirade about various mainstream reporters talking about the viral popularity of 2048, while neglecting to mention Threes anywhere in those pieces. It's just fine to write about how 2048, which is free on the web, has taken off. But even 2048 mentions Threes on its website, and these reporters can't be bothered to do basic fact checking? Deadlines can be harsh, but sheesh. The public relies on you to inform them!

It bothers me because it's not that hard. These articles don't have to condemn the existence of 2048--the modern clone is a bigger, more complicated question that I'm interested in exploring--but to pretend Threes doesn't exist does a disservice to the reader. It's even worse when the reporters try to pretend it's not their fault or write follow-up stories that paint an invented, defensive narrative about what's happening.

Sigh. That's my rant for the week. See you on the other side.

(Full disclosure: On some afternoons, I work in the same office as Threes designer Greg Wohlwend.)

Hey, You Should Play This

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Worth Playing: 03/28/2014
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And You Should Read These, Too

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Luftrausers has been a long time coming. I've seen the game at events for years, long before I came to know Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail. The game should have come out ages ago, and Ismail has written about the game's long gestation period. Ismail examines the mental state Luftrausers was originally developed in, around the time the studio was dealing with the cloning of Ridiculous Fishing, and how he struggled to continue talking about the project when he'd long moved past that part of his life. It's thoughtful insight into how games reflect creators, even if it's a game about blowing shit up.

"When you’re working on a game with a few people there’s no way to keep a reflection of yourself out of the final game. If you define the core designs, rules and ideologies of a project in a certain mindset, redefining those simply requires restarting the entire project. Too many decisions branch out from those earliest decisions, and changing those often ripple through a project in unpredictable ways, creating contradictions and dissonance.

We stayed true to the original concept and ideology--Luftrausers is strict, genuine and aggressive. It is upset, just like we were. All the things that people praise the game for now are things that we took from our mental state two years ago and -often without realising it- worked into the game. When I play Lurfrausers, it reminds me exactly of how angry and upset I felt when we started on the project."

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This is the deep dive into the creation of Threes I was alluding to earlier. It acts as a postmortem on the game's and vindication for the creators being miffed at how quickly misinformation about Threes clones has spread. The design of Threes was not divine. It did not come in a dream, handed to Wohlwend and Vollmer on a silver platter. In fact, their conversations allude to moments when it seemed like the design had been broken completely, and the two would be forced to move on. The greater questions about clones are for another feature on another day, but this monstrous tome is a testament to how difficult simplicity is.

"Threes was cloned and beat to a different market within 6 days of release on iOS. 2048 isn’t that clone. But it’s sort of the Commander Keen to Super Mario Bros. situation. Imagine Tetris was released and then less than a month later (instead of years) Dr. Mario was released. Dr. Mario is a pretty great game by the way, so the comparison is a bit weird here. Hopefully you get the sentiment.

This sort of fast turnaround creates a lot of confusion and while it’s exciting and somewhat inevitable, it doesn’t make the aftermath easier to deal with as original creators. Maybe not a lot of people know Alexey Pajitnov made Tetris, but of those that care about that kind of thing, it’s fairly obvious to everyone that Tetris came first. If you’re aware of Dr. Mario, you’re almost certainly aware that Tetris exists."

If You Click It, It Will Play

These Crowdfunding Projects Look Pretty Cool

  • Sup, Holmes? is a terrific interview show that's looking to continue for another season.
  • Grave seemed like a promising open world horror game the last time I checked it out.
  • Spirit is the 2D adventure game that's featured at the start of Worth Playing this week.

Facebook Buying Oculus Sure Got People Chatting

  • Dean Putney thinks the sale to Facebook kills part of what made Oculus so exciting.
  • Max Temkin shares some of the same thoughts about Oculus being independent tech.
  • Peter Berkman has deep concerns about the data mining future this partnership could enable.
  • Raph Koster mulls what this means for the future of virtual worlds.
  • Simon Parkin writes about how Oculus once resembled a modern fairly tale.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

This morning I dreamt I was a tourist visiting Drangleic. All the sightseeing, no souls lost. It was really nice.

— Tiff Chow (@tiffchow) March 27, 2014

Imagine getting a facebook poke. Now you'll actually be able to see the poke coming towards you. Or maybe BEHIND you? Exciting times.

— petermolydeux (@PeterMolydeux) March 25, 2014

Here's the thing about the joke that Carmack now works for FB. John doesn't *have* to work. He works because he *chooses* to.

— Cliff Bleszinski (@therealcliffyb) March 25, 2014

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+