A while back, I wrote an obituary for Rick Dickinson, the industrial designer behind legendary computers such as the ZX81. Reading around about this fascinating and talented character, I discovered that in the late 1980s he also designed a microscope: The Lensman. It won a range of design awards upon its release, including the Archimedes award for Engineering Excellence, a prize with such a glorious name I would probably whack it across the windshield of my Capri if it ever came my way.
I moved house over the weekend, and, since I hadn't done this sort of thing in a while, I was immediately struck by how weird and unsettling it is, even if you're fortunate enough, like me, to be deciding when to move and where to move. Anyway, it is disconcerting: I wake up in a familiar bed in a strange room, I don't know where anything is and I keep bumping my head on stuff. I don't know where the light switches are, where the breakers are, so when I do something stupid and plunge the whole place into darkness, I don't know how to fix it. I went out for milk yesterday and I got lost for, like, 15 minutes on the way back.
The Eiffel Tower is caught mid-explosion, pieces of it pulled out and hanging in the air, as if it's all part of one of those clever diagrams that shows you how complex things are put together. Why not? The Eiffel Tower - this strange, peaceful, mangled version of it - lies at the heart of Youropa, a game I meant to play for just half an hour the other day to see what it was all about. A game that instead drew me in for many hours of delight and genuine wonder.
The Game Accessibility Conference will take place in Paris on the 22nd of October this year. The one-day event is dedicated to making games more accessible to players with disabilities.
Years ago, I read a description of a game in Edge and it has slowly transformed, with time and a forgetting of almost all of the details, into a perfect game - a dream game. This was a while back, so far back in fact that I think the N-Gage was the platform the game was headed for. It was a game about building up a city or something like that - really, I have forgotten almost all of the details - and then your city might be attacked by another player, in real-time, and in real time you would have to do something about it.
Hungry Shark World is a mobile game from Ubisoft in which you race around as a shark, eating things and unlocking new sharks. As of today, though, it's also available on Switch, PS4 and Xbox One with fully optimised gamepad controls and upgraded visuals for 4K displays on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.
A bird indoors, I read recently - I cannot remember where - is an omen of bad things. I have no idea why this is, except there's just something very wrong about it, I guess, a topsy-turviness to the order of the universe that brings on panic. I have a distant memory of a thrush getting into the house when I was very small, all of these grown-ups around me suddenly flung into a state of chaos: standing on chairs, looking for towels and brooms - to guide it rather than clobber it, I think - and opening windows. The thrush seemed calm, as I remember the moment, and it left when it wanted to. I don't know how long thrushes live or the kinds of things they can expect to get up to over the course of a busy flapping life, but I imagine I think about that particular incident more of then than the thrush in question ever did.
The first time I met James Mielke, there was a whale involved. A space whale, more precisely, a galaxy in length from head to tail, swimming through the glittering firmament and basking in the rays from a billion distant suns. Sure, this whale had seen better days: it was covered with bright, glossy shards of cosmic infection, and as I scoured the infection away the whale began to sing to me. Each of those shards on its flesh triggered a single individual sound file - the whole thing was a sequencer of sorts. But it was also never less than a whale, a space whale, alive and playful in the deep. Once I had cleaned its back, it even rolled over so I could get to its noble belly.
One of the loveliest thoughts about games that I have read in ages came - and this was not surprising to me - from Tom Senior, the online editor of PC Gamer. "I feel like we should run Into the Breach scenarios in PC Gamer like newspaper Chess puzzles," he wrote. "ie. "Two mechs are webbed in a tide zone. Save both and protect the factory.""
For two games that are pretty much nothing alike, it's suprisingly easy to find yourself pondering the differences, large and small, between Tetris and Lumines. Yes, one is a marathon while the other is a sprint. And yes, one is about things that collapse while the other is about things that, often maddeningly, remain fixed in place. Playing Lumines Remastered over the weekend, though, sat cross-legged on the bed as though it was 2005 all over again, I was struck by a new point of difference - or rather an old point of difference that I had simply never really noticed before. Something about the texture of your mistakes, I think. Oh yes, it's this: your mistakes feel very different in Tetris and Lumines.
I will be honest: my worry, for the first few hours, is that Octo Expansion, the new single-player DLC for Splatoon 2, was going to be Splatoon 2: The Lost Levels. As in Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels.
OVERWHELM is a tricky game, sure, but it is mostly just incredibly oppressive. It is too close to your face, somehow. Its breath smells wrong, and you can smell its breath because it is too close to your face. Its worlds are drawn in an unloveable internal-organ palette of reds and purples, so cone fatigue plays a certain role in its queasy success. You finish a game and feel like you've emerged from something, like you've been swallowed and have spent an age fighting your way out. How long was I in there? Oh. Five minutes. But what minutes they were.
Updated story (6:30pm): Fortnite is available now in North America - but players elsewhere will have to wait a little bit longer.
Sucker Punch's new Samurai game, Ghost of Tsushima, was announced at last year's Paris Games Week. At this year's Sony E3 press briefing we got a proper glimpse of it in action. This is a confident and stylish open-world action game with the occasional weird glimpse of DNA from Sucker Punch's previous Sly Cooper games visible in the blend of traversal and stealth.
Stormland is an open-world VR game by Insomniac Games and Oculus, and thanks to this E3's PC Gaming Show, we've just been given a closer look at it.
Ubisoft has announced a release date for its weird and charming toys-to-life game Starlink: Battle for Atlas. The game will be landing on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on 16th of October, and Switch players will be able to play with Fox McCloud through the entire campaign including missions exclusive to Fox as add-on content.
Ubisoft has revealed new details for The Division 2 at its E3 press conference.
UPDATE: Square-Enix has just dropped some new details on Just Cause 4 during its E3 showcade.
You'd think if anyone had an interesting take on a game like Cyberpunk 2077 it would be William Gibson. And sure enough, @GreatDismal had a verdict on the trailer pretty early in proceedings yesterday: "The trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 strikes me as GTA skinned-over with a generic 80s retro-future," he wrote, "but hey, that's just me."
The Wolfenstein series is getting a VR game. Wolfenstein Cyberpilot casts players as hackers who can take over Nazi technology and turn it on its masters.
Metro Exodus got a release date during Microsoft's E3 press conference. 4A Games' post-apocalyptic shooter is aiming for 22nd February next year.
Graveyard Keeper is a wonderful thing, even in its current alpha state. You can tell what you're in for just by glancing at the patch notes on the home screen: "Fixed crash when extracting brain/fat/etc." I love that breezy "etc." "Fixed camera freeze when talking to Astrologer." And the home screen itself is no less delightful than the patch notes: night-time in a medieval village done up in pixel-art. The edges of a church and a waterfall are picked out in blue, lit by the nearby moon. It is a calm, but somehow potent view: the promise of morbid adventure. It reminds me a bit of that sense of expectation you get wandering around Melee Island at night.
Tower defence games are tricky things, I reckon. At their worst - and their worst is generally still pretty entertaining - they can feel a bit like clicker games. You buy stuff and place stuff and the enemies obligingly shuffle on through your maze, but the challenge has been eaten away by the sheer overwhelming force on your side and so you're left just watching the numbers change - one side's health being whittled down, another side's loot slowly pooling. You get a hint of the hidden life of maths, sure - the way that one enemy, placed in the middle of a line of troops, will make it much further on their health than those in front or behind do - but it's an empty, sugary sort of game when the designer's attention starts to slide.
I am the absentee parent to a bunch of Poké-bullies. The only phrase for what these guys are doing - and it is a phrase I have had to dredge from ancient childhood - is duffing people up. They're at it right now, Poké-villains, Poké-jerks. As I type this, they're kicking in a Weepinbell. It is almost a relief when I run out of battery.
There is an easy kind of brilliance to Nintendo at its best - although I'm sure there is nothing easy at all about creating this sort of impression in the first place. Anyway, it's down to a sort of pulling together of all parts of a game's design, reeling things in until what you have in your hands in rich and coherent and easy to understand. Last week Nintendo was showing off its forthcoming single-player stuff for Splatoon 2, and the sense throughout was of that richness, that coherence, and weirdly enough, the welcome surprises it can allow for.