We Bought A News: The Weekly Round-up

Valve are the Google of shooting dudes in the face

It’s perhaps fitting that the creators of Portal would have an employee manual that reads like a document from Aperture Science. Valve’s Handbook for New Employees surfaced the other day, and it’s pretty engaging stuff: working for Valve sounds like living in a hippie commune that makes genre-defining games franchises in its spare time. According to the manual, which gives the impression of being as much a piece of recruitment literature as it is a guide to those already working for the Valve family, employees are free to sit where they want, work on what they want, and approach senior members of staff with all the informality and camaraderie you would extend to a benevolent uncle. It’s an astonishing insight into one of the most revolutionary game developers in the world, and what comes across most is the sense that Valve believe an open, encouraging, fun work culture is necessary to make great games. I think the evidence speaks for itself.

 Activision have announced they’ll be announcing a new Call of Duty

It’s a sign of how bloated and overblown games marketing has become that even an announcement of a game’s announcement is a big deal. The unyieldingly popular Call of Duty is set for another inevitable sequel this year, and the main CoD website has transformed into one big teaser page for an imminent May 1 reveal. Word on the street has it that the next installment in the franchise will be the oft-rumoured Black Ops 2 (or CoD Blops 2, as I like to think of it), but we’ll have to wait till Tuesday to find out for sure. In absence of any concrete details, I’ve jotted down what I reckon the next CoD title will be:

  • Call of Duty: Hack Ops – you play one of a crack team of News of the World journalists battling your way through waves of celebrity voice messages to find a juicy front page headline.
  • Call of Duty: Black Octopus – you play one of a crack team of marine biologists battling your way through a wave (like, an actual wave, in the sea) to find a rare tentacled seabeast.
  • Call of Duty: Snack Ops – you play one of a crack team of London commuters battling through waves of rush hour human traffic to find a tasty sandwich deli.
  • Call of Doody: Crap Ops – you play one of a crack team (sorry) of plumbers battling through waves of – you get the idea…

No need to thank me, Activision.

The ZX Spectrum is 30, Google celebrates, Eurogamer gets nostalgic

Monday saw the 30th anniversary of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, commemorated by a charming Google retrodoodle that also paid tribute to the console’s English heritage. The brainchild of entrepreneur Sir Clive Sinclair, the machine’s affordability spawned an entire generation of bedroom programmers, nurturing an irrepressibly inventive and dementedly inspired cottage industry of British game development. Oli Welsh wrote an affectionate, impassioned love letter to the console over on Eurogamer, which is well worth a read, painting a warm, tender portrait of the irrevocable effect the Spectrum had on one man’s life, as well as the life of this country’s gaming culture.

Dead Space story producer slags off Gears of War’s writing, then takes it back

Chuck Beaver (seriously, what a name), the story producer of the creepy lateral limb-slicing Dead Space franchise, recently gave an official EA interview and used it as an opportunity to tear Gears of War a new one in the writing department. He called the scripting for Gears “atrocious,” “offensive,” and “literally the worst writing in games” before turning the figurative gun on himself and slagging off the story of Dead Space as messy and convoluted. EA, probably sensing they might have dropped themselves in the shitter with that one, have since removed the interview from its site, and Beaver has hastily recanted his earlier comments, issuing a statement dripping with hyperbole about Epic Games’ contributions to the games industry. There’s nothing worse than seeing a man with his foot stuck in his mouth forced to eat it, and the EA retraction (followed swiftly by grovelling brown-nosing) probably means that Beaver got a slap on the wrist from the powers that be over his comments. For what it’s worth, I’ve always preferred the story of the Dead Space franchise; I like the way the wider mythology lurks at the edges of the games. If the writing of Gears seems a little “weaker,” then it’s probably because it has a more functional role: it expertly gets the job done, propelling you through the action with nary a wasted word. Either way, I wish I had named this story “EA needs to keep a leash on its Beaver.” Sorry.

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