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Weekly Links #304: strategy game edition

26 January 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! This week I changed speeds and worked on the game UI for a while to keep things fresh. Here's the main menu:

There's also an in-game control panel not unlike in a JRPG (if they have a specific name, please let me know). And of course cover art, that you can see on my DeviantArt.

I've also made some updates to my old tech demo Midnight Meadow, as part of the ongoing reorganization that I only mentioned briefly in the site-wide newsfeed. And then there are more plans for the Eightway Engine, to be announced later.

In the way of news, this week we philosophize about a seminal strategy game, then look briefly at some links about this and other game genres and how they relate. Details below the cut.


On Friday, Jimmy Maher covers Master of Orion, doing a great job as usual. I knew the game that defined 4X as a genre (quite literally) wasn't the first of its kind. But I had no idea its roots went so deep, decades back to the days of board games and play-by-mail. Or how it came to be, hot on the trail of Civilization, and amply supported by the same publisher even as it was being sold off to a new owner. Do note how important a strong theme is to the game. Or how the interaction of various game mechanics, of which diplomacy is just one, gives birth to endless, rich narratives even as the game lacks any trace of a story written in advance. Not to mention how it deftly avoids the trap of assuming one ideal development path for every single culture out there.

And you know... I never thought about the way all these games start with a literal land-grab, only to end by one empire utterly dominating the others, if not eliminating the competition entirely. It makes for compelling gameplay, sure, but... Are we really incapable of imagining any other way for lower-case civilization to go? Even in the real world, only one empire ever worked out that way: America. Do you like the results?

I so wish Soviet sci-fi was better known around the world. We need that sort of idealism more than ever.


To conclude the week, we have some links with little or no comment:

Last but not least, there's No replacing the human touch: musings on why human dungeon masters are still a thing after decades of computer RPGs and other attempts to automate the job. Started out as a newsletter entry, and grew.

And we're done for now. Enjoy the Sunday, and see you!

Tags: game-design, philosophy, strategy, shooter, history

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